INDYCAR: Ed Carpenter Tops 231; Wins Second-Straight Indianapolis 500 Pole

Joel Sebastianelli Featured, Midwest, Sprints & Midgets, Verizon IndyCar Series 0 Comments

SPEEDWAY, IN — story by Race Chaser open wheel correspondent Joel Sebastianelli — Walter Kuhn photo — As an Indianapolis native and long-overshadowed member of the IndyCar Series, Ed Carpenter’s 2013 Indianapolis 500 pole was an emotional accomplishment, but winning the pole is now twice as nice for the owner-driver, who put the ECR Fuzzy’s Vodka #20 Chevrolet atop the scoring pylon for the second consecutive year on Sunday afternoon.

Carpenter’s four lap average of 231.067 mph was enough to narrowly edge Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe for the $100,000 Verizon P1 Award, putting him in prime position to possibly grab his first ever 500 triumph in next Sunday’s 98th running of the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’.

Carpenter was the final run of the day during the Fast Nine segment, once again delighting the crowd of locals in attendance.

“It’s awesome to do this two years in a row. I was surprised last year and didn’t expect to do it this year with such deep competition. It’s exciting, but after going through this last year and not winning the race I’ve been so much more determined,” said Carpenter, who led 37 laps last year (the most of anyone) but finished 10th. “Now it’s all about the race, and we want to close the deal.”

The feat of back to back poles introduces Carpenter into an exclusive fraternity of all-time greats at IMS. He is just the eleventh driver in the history of the race to earn the pole in consecutive years, joining drivers such as Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Tom Sneva, Rick Mears, and Helio Castroneves (who starts 4th). Carpenter is the first American to start first two years in a row since Scott Brayton in 1995 and 1996.

Although Carpenter’s speed was good enough for pole in the Fast Nine, the second fastest laps of the day were turned in by Juan Pablo Montoya. Coming out late in the day’s first portion of qualifying, Montoya’s blistering pace of 231.007 mph qualified the Penske #2 10th. The Colombian and 2000 Indianapolis 500 victor credits a more aggressive approach for Sunday’s result.

“In hindsight, I think we were a little conservative (Saturday),” said Montoya. “I felt I probably had the fastest of the three cars at Penske and I was excited about that. I went out to qualify and the speed wasn’t there. The track, with the wind, was coming up and down and you really had to take advantage when the track was quick.”

“We were a bit more aggressive today and were really pushing the envelope. Overall, the car had good speed.”

Rolling off on the inside of row four, Montoya joins three-time series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon and 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch on a star-studded row. Dixon vastly improved his disappointing pace from Saturday, while “The Outlaw” picked up his incredible month of May right where he left off upon his departure to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, qualifying 12th at a rate of 230.782 mph.

“It’s been great all the way around. Each day has been a nice amount of progress that I’ve shown the team and the team was ready to give me next step and here we are,” Busch said. “We’re on Row Four of the Indianapolis 500. Saturday, it felt like that was everything I could get out of the car at that moment and it would have been nice to stick around and try to defend that fast nine. I think that I would have been over-achieving.”

Busch is attempting “double-duty” next Sunday, competing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. If the attempt is successful, he would be the first since Tony Stewart in 2001 to achieve the feat.

Although Busch’s experience in myriad realms of racing qualifies him as an expert and world-class driver, he is a newcomer to IndyCar and is classified as the fastest “rookie” at IMS.

Prior to being usurped by teammate Scott Dixon and others as track conditions improved, defending Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan held the fastest speed of the day temporarily with a 229.922 mph set of laps.  He’ll take the green flag in 16th on the inside of row 6.

Hinchcliffe, who suffered a concussion during last Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis and was cleared to drive on May 15th, clocked a fastest lap of 231.618 mph on the first lap of his four-lap run. His average speed of 230.839 mph puts him on the front row — second– for this year’s 500-Mile Race. Will Power (230.697 mph average) starts on the outside of the front row in third, his second-career front row start at Indy.

Castroneves, who looks to tie his hero Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser with his fourth Indy 500 victory next Sunday, recorded the fastest single qualifying lap of the two day period (231.671) in the Fast Nine Shootout. Driving his retro-painted No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum “Yellow Submarine” Team Penske car, Castroneves (230.649) shares Row 2 with Frenchman Simon Pagenaud (230.614) and Marco Andretti (230.544), who sat on the front row last year.

Carlos Munoz, who started and finished second last year as a rookie, Josef Newgarden, in his third season with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and JR Hildebrand (228.726), the 2011 race runner-up as a rookie and the first qualifier in the Fast Nine, make up Row Three.

The youngest and oldest competitors in this edition of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” sandwich Sebastian Saavedra on the final row. 19 year old high school student Sage Karam, who skipped his senior prom to participate in qualifications on Saturday, lines up in 31st while 46 year old Buddy Lazier rounds out the field. Lazier emerged victorious at the 500 in 1996 and was the 2000 series champion.

The gap from Lazier in 33rd to Carpenter in first (2.1509 seconds) is the smallest gap in the 98 year history of the Indianapolis 500. The previous closest was 2.5399 seconds in 2011. The difference in speed between Carpenter and Lazier (3.147 mph) is the second-closest field by speed in the history of the race. The closest was 3.130 mph in 1953.

With one week remaining until the race, the schedule for the stars and cars of the Verizon IndyCar Series shifts predominantly toward media duties. Following Monday’s practice session, media obligations continues everywhere from the track to New York City up to Friday, when the cars briefly hit the track one more time during Carb Day festivities.

Coverage of Sunday’s race begins at 11am on ABC, with the green flag set for noon Eastern time.

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