After two runner-up finishes in the Nationwide Series at his home track of Montreal, Patrick Carpentier was given the chance to drive in the No. 10 Gillett-Evernham Motorsports Dodge full-time in the Sprint Cup Series, starting with three events in 2007. Carpentier then competed for the 2008 Rookie of the Year Award against fellow open-wheel names such as Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villenueve and Sam Hornish Jr. The Canadian held his own against the competition, recording one pole and several solid finishes. Still, the season ended prematurely for Carpentier, who was ousted from his ride after a public dispute with his crew chief at Talladega in October.
Following that incident, the 38-year-old was left without a ride for the start of the 2009 season. That changed at the end of May when he received a call from Tommy Baldwin. Baldwin, who had just parted ways with his driver, Scott Riggs, approached Carpentier with the opportunity to drive the No. 36 Toyota for five races this season. Our own Tony Lumbis spent some time with Carpentier during the Pocono 500 weekend, where the two discussed the incident that ended the 2008 season, how Carpentier became interested in NASCAR, his obsession with building homes and the team that gave him new life – Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted before Carpentier was named as the driver of Michael Waltrip’s No. 55 NAPA Toyota for the two road-course events this season.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch: You were quietly enjoying a very solid season last year when things turned sour at the end. The low point came at Talladega with the public argument between you and your crew chief Mike Shiplett. What was your take on that incident?
Patrick Carpentier: I wasn’t too happy about the way it ended, but I still thank those guys for everything they did for me. I just didn’t agree with the way it ended. I think they ran out of money with the No. 10 car and Mr. Gillett was pretty much paying out of his pocket. We had sponsors, but I think he was still footing a good portion of the bill. I was actually pretty lucky to make it as far as we did last year.
What happened at the end is that the crew chief said we didn’t make [the race] at Talladega because I ran the yellow line, and that didn’t make sense at all. At Talladega for qualifying, you just hold it wide open and try to get as smooth as you can with the car. I didn’t agree with his point, and we argued about it, and then I was let go right after that. I could see it coming, though. There were talks about it, and the sponsorship search was not going well. Still, we qualified well and had some good runs throughout that season. The finishes weren’t too bad. In fact, at Richmond, I was running about 11th or 12th and crashed with another car with five or six laps to go.
I enjoyed it, though, and had a good time. That team gave me my first chance to be in Cup, and it just didn’t end the way we wanted it. We’re still on good terms. Mr. Gillett still wanted me to go to a hockey game afterwards, and they’ve been very nice. It’s all water under the bridge. In fact, they helped land me this seat with the No. 36 car.
Lumbis: Did you end up going to the hockey game?
Carpentier: No, I didn’t. I’m not the biggest hockey fan, I don’t go to a lot of hockey games. A lot of my friends were saying “Oh, you should go and bring me over.” That was because it was in Mr. Gillett’s suite (laughs).
Lumbis: I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard a Canadian say that he was not that into hockey.
Carpentier: No, actually I’m more into speed skating, which I used to do. When I was younger, I used to go training at Lake Placid. I guess I always liked going fast in ovals (laughs).
Lumbis: Do you have the desire to go full-time racing in the Sprint Cup Series again?
Carpentier: I would love to. If I were fortunate enough to land a full-time ride, I would love to. I’m very lucky to have this ride right now. They (Tommy Baldwin Racing) already have a road-course guy (Brian Simo) for those events, but I’ve been approached by several teams about racing in those events. I’m going to end up doing a few races, and we’re talking to a Nationwide team to do some events over there. So hopefully, this year I’ll get to do about 10 or 15 races – that would be good.
Lumbis: You are already scheduled to run Montreal in a Michael Waltrip Racing entry, correct?
Carpentier: Yes, we’ll be running the NAPA Auto Parts car up there. I’m looking forward to that, and we’re going to do some testing for that event as well, so I’m really looking forward to that opportunity. There’s going to be a lot of tough competition up there. I’ve finished second in that event the past two years, so hopefully we’ll do one better this year. It’s going to be a good battle, and I know there will be a lot of Cup guys up there. I think they like to go to Montreal in the summertime (smiles). It will be a great time, it’s definitely a fun track. I remember last year, Carl Edwards using the squeegee was one of the more memorable moments for me at that place.
Lumbis: Would you ever consider racing the IndyCar Series full-time again if you had the right opportunity?
Carpentier: No, not at all. I actually get asked every year to return. In fact, one time Andretti-Green Racing asked me to race and I turned it down. Another team asked me to do the Indy 500 along with Toronto, Edmonton and a few other races this year and I chose not to. I like it here in the Sprint Cup Series. When I stopped IndyCars in ’05, I wanted to stop that form of racing altogether. I fell in love with NASCAR and I really enjoy driving these cars. It’s a heck of a challenge, and I really like it.
Lumbis: What was the most difficult aspect of making the transition from the open-wheel series to NASCAR?
Carpentier: Everything is night and day. You do not have any computers or data acquisition over here. [Instead,] what you see is basically what is going to happen here, so your communication with the crew chief is really important. In IndyCar, you had all the computers and five guys looking at the data, so that always helped. Here, it’s different. You have to always drive the car, even on the straightaway in all the traffic. I remember in Vegas last year, I almost lost it in that kink down that front straightaway. It was getting loose on me, and you’re still going about 180 mph and the wheels can break loose quickly. It’s a fun challenge, though. I always say that racing stock cars reminds me of a rental car on steroids – but I don’t do those types of things with my rentals anymore (laughs).
Lumbis: You’ve raced in the CASCAR Super Series. Can you tell us about your race in that series at Cayuga? Also, not many Americans are familiar with that Canadian stock car series, can you explain how it differs from NASCAR?
Carpentier: That’s where I fell in love with NASCAR, actually. I raced one event at Cayuga about the same time I had the offer from Andretti, so I had to make my decision. We had a lot of fun there. We had a flat tire in qualifying and had to start from the back. We came back and at the end of the race, we were up to fifth place and I was trying to get by the fourth-place guy. I couldn’t quite do it, so I kind of spun and took the checkered flag backwards. At that point, I was like: “YES! This is what I want to do!”
The tires between the two series are different, which causes the cars to behave differently. But for the most part, it is very similar as far as the cars go. The tracks, however, are much smaller in CASCAR. There are a lot of flat, short tracks as opposed to here where you have a lot of long, fast tracks. I like speed and racing at places like here at Pocono. The speed and the length of the tracks are probably the biggest difference.
Lumbis: You are working towards becoming a licensed builder in Canada. What was the motivation for pursuing that line of work with the housing market in the tubes?
Carpentier: Yep, well I actually got my license so I am pumped about that.
I made that decision because anything that goes up must come down, and anything that goes down eventually come up. So, while the economy and housing markets are down, I’m taking all the classes, getting all the necessary licenses, and setting up the business and preparing, so when it comes back up, we’ll be ready. That’s the plan anyway. Right now, it’s pretty dead, but I’m spending my time racing and enjoying it. Those are the two things I really love, construction and racing. I’ve actually been involved in construction for about seven or eight years and buying and selling houses. We do all the work from the excavating to the building.
Lumbis: So, you get to work with powerful tools and race fast cars on a constant basis. You realize that you are every man’s hero, right?
Carpentier: Yes, (laughs), exactly. I’ve been very fortunate to have a great life. I’ve raced cars all my life and it’s been fun. I’ve had some good ups and bad downs, but all in all, I’d say it’s been really good.
Lumbis: What was it about the opportunity to run races with Tommy Baldwin Racing that made you say, “This is a good idea, and I need to do this?”
Carpentier: I know Tommy is a good crew chief and maybe they don’t have the budget that Hendrick has, but they are hard workers. I know they have good guys here. There were actually a few teams that have called me, and one of them wanted me to do Charlotte. It was a one-time deal with a satellite operation and I didn’t want it. With Tommy Baldwin Racing, I feel like I can have some good opportunities to show what I can do in qualifying and, of course, in the race. They gave me an opportunity to test at Indy, and I feel like there is some long-term potential here. I am very fortunate that Tommy called me about two weeks ago, I was very happy to take him up on the opportunity.
Lumbis: You’ve only worked with this team for a short time, but from a driver’s viewpoint, what should potential supporters know about Tommy Baldwin and his race team?
Carpentier: A lot of teams started the same way, even Hendrick. For me, it’s a team that has a lot of potential. Right now, we are limited with resources and even with that, the team is doing well. I think it’s a great opportunity for a sponsor to come in at a low cost and be there every week.
Lumbis: Tommy has the reputation of being a real racer as well.
Carpentier: He is a racer, and I think all of the guys on the team seem to be as well. It’s been fun to work with them and get the car ready for this weekend. Tommy makes good changes, and is good at giving me what I am looking for in the car. I think it would be a great opportunity for any sponsor who wants to get involved with racing. There is so much potential for this team at such a low cost, so there is tremendous upside.
Lumbis: You’re scheduled for a limited number of races here. Is there potential for a longer term deal with you and Tommy Baldwin Racing down the road?
Carpentier: Yeah, I hope so. I need to do a good job for them, too, and we’ll see what happens. If things work out well, maybe we’ll keep working together. For Tommy, it’s important for him to find the right people in the right places and try to move forward. Mike Skinner is going to fill in the gaps this year, I know, but we’ll see what happens long term.
To learn more about Tommy Baldwin Racing, visit tommybaldwinracing.net for information on the team, the drivers and sponsorship opportunities.