By: Jeff Majeske
Special Correspondent to SpeedwaySightings.com
INDIANAPOLIS – Ed Carpenter, last year’s pole-sitter, ran the fastest qualifying speeds for the Indianapolis 500 in more than a decade during Saturday’s time trials.
He may have to do even better today to become the first back-to-back pole winner since Helio Castroneves in 2009-10.
The Indianapolis resident recorded a four-lap average of 230.661 mph to snag the top spot heading into today’s final day of qualifying. That’s the fastest since 2003 when Helio Castroneves averaged 231.725 mph.
All of the top nine qualifiers averaged better than 230 mph.
“I was hoping to only have to do that once today, but we figured we had to do it twice just to have some security,” said Carpenter, who set the pace earlier in the day when he qualified at 230.114 mph.
Saturday’s speeds will be erased, and all drivers will re-qualify again today to set the order of the 33-car field. Drivers in positions 10-30 from Saturday will get one attempt in reverse order (driver in spot 30 goes first, then driver in spot 29 and so forth).
The top nine qualifiers will participate in the Fast Nine Shootout, again getting one attempt. The driver in spot No. 9 from Saturday will make the first run.
Drivers in spots 31-33 from Saturday – plus any new entries – can make multiple attempts. The race is Sunday, May 25.
With an unlimited amount of qualification attempts available, action was steady all day as drivers shuffled in and out of the Fast Nine until rain hit at 3:03 p.m. EDT. After a delay of about an hour, qualifying resumed, and the speeds and activity increased. A total of 71 attempts were made.
Carpenter is joined on the provisional front row by Carlos Munoz, who started second last year, and three-time winner (and four-time pole-sitter) Castroneves.
If the spots for Carpenter and Munoz hold today, it will be the first time the same drivers have started 1-2 in consecutive years.
Rounding out the Fast Nine are Simon Pagenaud, the winner of the Grand Prix, Josef Newgarden, who made a late charge to make the Fast Nine, and J.R. Hildebrand, Carpenter’s teammate this month.
Kurt Busch, who had a NASCAR race later Saturday and had to leave early, wound up 10th.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that none of the Chip Ganassi cars made the cut to run for the pole.
Reigning series champion Scott Dixon was a lackluster 15th, Ryan Briscoe 17th, Charlie Kimball 19th and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan 23rd. The best any of them can start after today’s qualifying is 1oth.