INDIANAPOLIS — Ed Carpenter once again displayed his prowess at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, leading the first day of qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
The owner/driver posted a four-lap qualifying run at 230.468 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, leading 31 drivers who completed attempts on Saturday.
Carpenter and the next eight fastest qualifiers from day one will re-qualify during Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout, which determines the Verizon P1 Award winner for the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ on May 28.
“It feels like 2013 right now,” said Carpenter, who won the Indianapolis 500 pole back-to-back in 2013 and 2014. “I wasn’t expecting that. I thought I could run a 230 (lap), but not four of them. Thanks to Chevrolet for giving me a good bullet and for making the best aero out here right now.”
Joining Carpenter in the Fast Nine Shootout will be Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, J.R. Hildebrand, reigning 500 champion Alexander Rossi, Will Power, two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti.
Sato benefited from being the last of six Andretti Autosport drivers to qualify, taking his teammates’ input and putting four laps together at an average speed of 230.382 mph in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.
The 40-year-old veteran’s run missed out on top honors by less than six-hundredths of a second.
“It was great, the car was working good,” Sato said. “Usually lapping through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for qualifying, I’m not enjoying. But the car was very, very stable. I was starting to really enjoy after Turn 1 and the green-flag lap. Very free off the corner, so I think the car was really good. Tremendous support from all the team effort.”
Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, was eighth in line to qualify, putting together four laps at 230.333 mph despite sunshine bathing the track. Later attempts were run under cloudy skies.
“I think we were in the tougher kind of conditions,” Dixon said. “The track temp was definitely very high when we did our attempt, the sun was out. We’re happy with our time and we’re pleased with the laps we ran. There is still tomorrow, of course, so doing the best we can on Sunday is what really matters.”
In his first oval-track qualifying attempt, Alonso qualified seventh in the No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda.
“(Qualifying) gets stressful; it gets difficult … tricky,” Alonso said. “But at the same time, (it’s) huge adrenaline when you cross the line (to conclude the run). Today was all about being in the fast nine. We did it and tomorrow is the real thing, so let’s see.”
Qualifying was delayed five hours, after heavy rain saturated the 2.5-mile oval at the time the session was slated to begin.
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