- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Every night this week has something different in store for Ed Carpenter.

There was the appearance with golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, whose spirits brand sponsors his car, at a liquor store Monday night. There was a celebrity bartending turn at a posh steakhouse Wednesday night. More appearances were scheduled around Indianapolis on Thursday and Friday.

It comes with being the hometown hero, the kid who spent his childhood racing around Gasoline Alley, went to school at Butler University and dreamed of winning at the Brickyard.

It also comes with sitting on the pole for the Indy 500.

But if there is anybody who can deal with all the commotion, it may be Carpenter, with his unflappable nature and aw-shucks attitude. Ernie Els may be known as the Big Easy for the golfer’s laidback demeanor, but a fitting moniker for Carpenter might simply be, “Easy Ed.”

“It’s a busy week, and a fun week,” Carpenter told The Associated Press while rushing between appearances, where he’s signed so many autographs his hand must have hurt. “But when you’re on the front row, it can end up putting some unwarranted pressure on you.”

Carpenter wasn’t always so placid. He had quite a temper when he was younger, a fiery streak that still occasionally flares up when he’s in the midst of a tense race.

But the stepson of series founder Tony George, whose family traces its roots to the purchase of Indianapolis Motor Speedway after World War II, Carpenter made a conscious effort to change. Having kids was a part of it - he wanted to be a role model for Makenna, Ryder and Cruz.

“When I was younger, I didn’t control my emotions well enough,” Carpenter explained. “It’s something I’ve tried to get better at as I’ve gotten older, not only in racing but life. My family and kids have made me a lot better person and in turn made me a better driver.”

There are other reasons the 33-year-old Carpenter has been able to deal with the chaos that surrounds the pole. For one thing, he went through this entire exercise a year ago.

Back then, he was a one-car team - he’s added a second car driven by J.R. Hildebrand this year. And when he landed on the pole, it came as a surprise to him as much as anybody.

When he looks back at the entire race week, he realizes everything was a bit overwhelming.

“It was so exciting last year because going into qualifying I wasn’t really eying the pole,” said Carpenter, who went on to finish 10th in the race. “This year we knew Day 1 we had a fast car, so you go for it. Especially after last year. You set your sights higher. It’s a different experience this time. I would have been more disappointed if we didn’t win the pole.”

Even though Carpenter is only the 11th driver to win back-to-back poles, he is keenly aware that starting on the front doesn’t mean he’ll finish there. Last year taught him that.

Or, as Juan Pablo Montoya said recently, “The pole doesn’t put your face on the trophy.”

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