INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is like a second home to Ed Carpenter. The Verizon IndyCar Series team owner/driver, who grew up and still lives in Indianapolis, showed his lasting affinity for the cathedral of motorsports by winning the Verizon P1 Award in pole day qualifying for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Driving the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for his namesake team, Carpenter thrilled the hometown crowd by putting together a sensational four-lap, 10-mile run at 229.618 mph in the Fast Nine Shootout featuring the fastest drivers from first-day qualifications on Saturday. He got the better of four Team Penske drivers in a thrilling conclusion to qualifying and collected his third Indy 500 pole position, becoming the 10th driver in race history with three or more.
“Every other pole I’ve won here, at least one of the laps, I was right-hand down loose on the last lap,” Carpenter said, “but the balance was just perfect for all four laps (Sunday). … It’s still never easy doing what we do, but they certainly gave me a great car.”
The 37-year-old Carpenter will lead the field of 33 cars to the green flag when “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” rolls off Sunday, May 27 (11 a.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
His initial lap of 230.088 mph on the qualifying run was the first logged by anyone this year on the 2.5-mile oval without the assistance of an aerodynamic tow.
“I don’t know that I was expecting to see that, but the (No.) 20 car had a lot of speed in it and we still had a long ways to go at that point,” Carpenter said. “I had seen other guys drop off a lot, especially guys picking up understeer in the middle of the run, so we were able to put down four pretty consistent laps for the time of day. It was a lot of fun.”
Team Penske drivers Simon Pagenaud (228.761 mph), Will Power (228.607) and Josef Newgarden (228.405) set the bar in the Fast Nine Shootout leading to Carpenter’s dramatic run. The fourth Team Penske driver, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, was the last with an opportunity to unseat Carpenter from the pole, but was only able to average 227.859 mph on his run and will start eighth.
Sebastien Bourdais qualified fifth in the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, at 228.142 mph. Carpenter’s teammates, Spencer Pigot (228.107) and Danica Patrick (228.090), qualified sixth and seventh, respectively.
“I’m super proud of the team,” Carpenter said. “It’s one thing to build a fast car here. It’s a whole ‘nother to build three fast cars, especially one of them not being a full-time crew.”
Pigot’s starting position will be the best of his 28-race career while Patrick will start in the first three rows at the Indy 500 for the fourth time, in the race that will end her groundbreaking career.
“As far as a run goes, to be going as fast as you can possibly go, yeah, it was pretty comfortable,” said Patrick, driving the No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet. “I’m grateful for that.
“How about Ed?” Patrick added, talking about her boss winning the pole. “That’s awesome. He deserves it. He works really hard and they pushed hard in practice to get ready to sit on the pole.”
Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner and a three-time Indy 500 pole sitter, will start this year’s race on the outside of Row 3 after qualifying ninth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (227.262 mph).
Prior to the Fast Nine Shootout, Group 1 qualifying set the starting order for the last seven rows of the 33-car grid. AJ Foyt Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Matheus “Matt” Leist led the way and will start 10th and 11th, respectively.
Kanaan’s four-lap average was 227.664 mph in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, while Leist – who won the Indy Lights Freedom 100 on the IMS oval a year ago – was the fastest rookie qualifier at 227.571 mph in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet.
“What a great effort as a team,” said Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner. “A.J. (Foyt) and Larry (Foyt) put so much effort into this over the winter. They gave us everything I asked and they stepped up.
“We’re a little team but we’re having a lot of fun. This is for them. I told them today our pole is going to be (qualifying) 10th. This is pole in my books.”
Joining the Foyt drivers in Row 4 will be Marco Andretti, who qualified the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda at 227.288 mph. Things didn’t go as well for his Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi, however. The last driver to make a qualifying run in Group 1 by virtue of being the 10th-fastest qualifier on Saturday, Rossi struggled with handling issues that saw his speeds topple nearly 6 mph from the first lap to the fourth.
The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner wound up 32nd on the grid with an average speed of 224.935 mph.
“It’s, for sure, frustration,” Rossi said. “I thought we were fighting for Row 4, and now we are on the last row. We had the speed to do it all month. It’s unfortunate. I think it was something pretty major. … The first lap was manageable-ish, and then it was just survival and you had to bring the car home.”
The biggest gainer in Group 1 qualifying was James Davison. The driver of the No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Chevrolet was the slowest of the 33 qualifiers on Saturday but improved his lot 14 positions and will start on the inside of Row 7 following a four-lap run at 226.255 mph.
“It’s just another reward for this AJ Foyt/Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi team after making the show yesterday to then have an increase in performance that we weren’t particularly expecting,” said Davison, who’ll be making his fourth Indy 500 start. “Those days are always fantastic in this sport. I’m really proud to be a part of this team.”