Does Larry Curry Get One More Chance?
I’m not usually very astute at connecting the dots. I guess since I am not a conspiracy theorist by nature, I tend to look at things and pretty much take them at face value. I have to be hit on the head by an anvil in order to see something that hasn’t been fully announced. Even then, I’m normally not too accurate in my predictions. So, take it for what it’s worth when I see a connection between two separate announcements that were made earlier this week.
On Monday, we learned that Dreyer & Reinbold Racing was parting ways with engineer and team manager Larry Curry, along with his son Matt – who also worked for the team as an engineer. Based on the results we’ve seen from DRR for the past two seasons, I’d say the move was justified.
Wednesday brought the unexpected news (unexpected to me, anyway) that Ed Carpenter Racing was being formed for a full-season effort with backing from Fuzzy’s Vodka. We knew that Fuzzy’s was going to make an announcement on Wednesday, but most people (myself included) thought they were going to back Ed in an oval-only program to continue at Sarah Fisher Racing. I had no idea that Carpenter was in the process of forming his own team in conjunction with his stepfather Tony George as a co-owner.
So where do I connect the dots? Am I too off base to suggest that Larry Curry might end up at Ed Carpenter Racing for 2012?
Larry Curry is an interesting, if not controversial, figure in the paddock. He was the man behind Team Menard’s success throughout the nineties. When Tony Stewart won the IRL championship in 1997, he credited Curry with much of his success. Stewart backed up those words when he brought in Curry as a co-owner and to manage his short lived Tri-Star Racing program; for which Stewart drove in the 1999 Indianapolis 500.
Larry Curry made himself an easy target with his conviction of pilfering money from his boss in the nineties, John Menard. Reports of the theft range from less than a million to more than $1.5 million. Curry began serving a thirty-two month sentence in a federal penitentiary in July 2001. Many predicted his career in auto racing was over.
After his release, Curry actually resurfaced at Vision Racing after Tony George asked for and received permission from John Menard. He managed Vision Racing until after the start of the 2008 season. Ed Carpenter and AJ Foyt IV qualified second and third respectively for the season opener at Homestead. However, both cars failed technical inspection and started at the rear of the field.
Although not immediately, Curry was eventually dismissed by Vision for reasons that I certainly understand. Being in the position of CEO of the league, Tony George could not have his own team being cited for cheating. There are just too many bad scenarios that can come from that. Having the CEO owning a team already presented a potential conflict of interest image, he didn’t need to give that any further ammunition.
By the time the Indianapolis 500 rolled around that May, Curry had already been picked up by Marty Roth. By late summer of 2008, he was in his most recent gig at Dreyer & Reinbold.
For the past three off-seasons, we kept hearing how Dreyer & Reinbold was the team to watch for “next season”. Larry Curry was expected to do great things along with other engineering expansions and driver upgrades. Instead, driver injuries have plagued the team as they resorted to a revolving door of thirteen drivers over the past two seasons. For those reasons and others, the results just didn’t come and Larry Curry had to go.
While many contend that Curry is an outstanding engineer, his resume is a mixed bag. He is considered the man responsible for Team Menard’s success in the IRL from 1996 to 1998, before leaving to go to Tri-Star and Tony Stewart in 1999. Although Menard won the IRL championship in 1999 with Greg Ray, they never fully regained their form after that. His results with the low-budgeted Tri-Star were less than stellar. They did no better than seventeenth in 2000 while running Jeret Schroeder in 2000.
His stints with Vision, Roth and DRR produced poor to mediocre results. Things looked up for 2010 at DRR, especially for the Indianapolis 500 until Mike Conway’s ferocious crash on the final lap. After that, it was pretty much downhill for Dreyer & Reinbold. His only real highlights came at Homestead at 2008, when he was ultimately found to be in violations of the rules.
So, why on earth would Ed Carpenter have any interest in Curry at this time? Although he may not be considered one of the best engineers in the paddock, I think he is still thought of as above average. Plus, he seems to really excel in setting up a car on an oval. Ed Carpenter’s strength is oval racing. That is where he can expect the best results. He has to decide whether to focus on his strength or to build on his weakness – road/street courses. I think it’s wise for a new team starting from scratch to focus on its strengths at first.
The new 2012 chassis is another consideration. A new start-up team will need a better-than-average engineer to come to grips with a new car out of the box if they hold any hopes of being competitive. Larry Curry fills that need.
Obviously, Ed Carpenter and Larry Curry have worked together before. I don’t pretend to know if they even like each other – much less work well together. But when starting a new team with a new car, Ed Carpenter Racing will probably need all the new familiarity that they can get. Even though Tony George will be a co-owner, he no longer holds an official position with INDYCAR and will therefore not have to be any more conscious of team image than any other team on the grid.
Although his moral compass might be more than slightly askew, I think that Larry Curry has the know-how to get a new team off the ground. His engineering prowess is also probably up to the task of getting the new chassis up to speed. There may be better and more capable people out there to run a team and also serve as a team’s engineer, but they are already employed by the top teams. Given the set of circumstances, I think Larry Curry would be a steal (no pun intended) for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Engineers are not a dime-a-dozen in the IZOD IndyCar Series. As time moves on, the engineer’s role becomes more and more important. Regardless of his shortcomings, Ed Carpenter should snatch up Larry Curry if he can.