Finishing up his fourth season with the Indianapolis Colts, Josh McNary felt it was time to learn more about one of the city’s most popular other sports. McNary had been to a couple Indianapolis 500s but he wanted to dig deeper into Indy car racing.
Tuesday, the 28-year-old linebacker did just that, receiving a personal tour of the Ed Carpenter Racing shop in Speedway, Ind., from the team’s owner/driver. Carpenter gave McNary a behind-the-scenes peek into the inner workings of a race team and the two athletes discussed the similarities between their sports.
“I was just interested in getting familiar with the sport and kind of been tracking a few of the teams,” McNary said. “Ed Carpenter’s definitely a notable figure in the Indy area. This being my fourth year (with the Colts), I kind of bought into the INDYCAR culture a little bit and it was an opportunity that I’ve been chomping at the bit for a while now.”
For Carpenter, the three-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner and two-time Indianapolis 500 pole sitter, it was an opportunity to make another connection to the NFL team he’s grown up adoring.
“I’ve been a Colts fan forever, so it’s fun when you get to meet guys like Josh coming to the shop or guys that you meet at the gym or just around town,” Carpenter said. “It’s one thing to be a fan, but when you know people that are involved with the teams, you can watch with a different type of respect and knowledge and be a little more engaged in it.”
McNary was surprised to learn the depth of team involvement in Indy car racing, with Carpenter explaining he has about a dozen crew members working in his pit each race. Carpenter compared his crew to what the Colts’ coaching staff does for McNary and his teammates. The two men also laughed at how their respective “coaches” can easily catch their mistakes, whether it’s from game film on the football field or computer data transmitted from the race car.
“The eye in the sky doesn’t lie,” McNary said.
McNary, a product of Army, said his visit to the ECR shop gave him a finer appreciation for how intricate Indy car racing is and – just as in football – how important every member’s role is in achieving success.
“It’s a team sport just as football is,” he said. “You see mainly the driver but there’s so much that goes into it. I was impressed with the amount of strategy that takes place. (Carpenter) referred to it as a chess game and I can definitely see how that can be the case.
“It definitely relates a lot to what I do as a linebacker, just on the field thinking and he’s behind the wheel of the car and not only is he driving but he’s making judgments and conferring with his guys in the pit. It gives you more insight into how complex these jobs are.”
Carpenter has gotten to know a number of Colts players and coaches. He sometimes trains with tight end Jack Doyle and offensive lineman Joe Reitz – both Indianapolis-area natives – and said the three often are amazed at what each other can do in their specialized workouts.
Physical training, Carpenter added, is just one element of preparation in both sports often overlooked by fans who focus on what transpires on the field or racetrack.
“One thing that is similar, whether it’s football, basketball, racing – any sport, really – there’s always a crazy amount of preparation that goes into it that a lot of people don’t understand,” Carpenter said. “There’s a whole lot of processes and different things that we all go through, whether it’s a car build, driver preparation, player preparation, coaching. There’s all these different processes going on independently that all come together when we’re performing.
“There’s a ton that can be learned from the way that different sports entities operate,” he added. “At a certain level we’re all team sports doing totally different things, but the processes and some of the stuff behind it and what it takes to be successful, I don’t think is all that different.”