Carpenter Paces Indy 500 Time Trials
INDIANAPOLIS – For the second straight year, owner/driver Ed Carpenter was the fastest driver on the first day of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500.
But unlike last year when he won the pole, he has to go out on Sunday and do it all over again.
After 6 hours and 50 minutes of qualifications and 71 attempts the 33-car starting lineup for the 98th Indianapolis 500 has been determined but the order of the grid has to be determined with even more Time Trials on Sunday.
Never before has so much activity during the month of May meant so little to the overall starting lineup than Saturday’s qualifications at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With only 33 car/driver combinations in this year’s race there would be no bumping on Saturday, so Sunday’s final round of qualifications will be two rounds with positions the order of positions 10-33 filled during one-shot qualifications beginning at 11 a.m. E.T.
The starting lineup for the first three rows will be determined during the “Fast Nine” session, beginning at 2 p.m E.T.
While the action on Saturday was virtually non-stop, Carpenter recorded the fastest four-lap average of 230.661 miles per hour in a Dallara/Chevrolet with relative ease, although he did make two attempts.
“I was hoping to only have to do that once today, but as it turned out we needed to do it twice just to have some security,” said last year’s pole winner. “I’m really happy both of our cars made it in. I think it was an exciting day to have five different teams represented in the top nine. More than probably what I expected going into today. I thank the speedway and the series it should be exciting.”
Carpenter was the fastest driver on Saturday and his Indy 500 teammate JR Hildebrand was the last driver in the nine that will fight it out for the pole with a four-lap average of 230.027 mph. Both drivers are in Dallara/Chevrolets.
NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch nearly made it into the Fast Nine after making two attempts but he had to depart at 2:45 p.m. to return to North Carolina for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He barely missed the Fast Nine and is the 10th fastest at 229.960 mph in a Dallara/Honda.
“The Andretti team has taken the steps to help me get to a comfortable place to be able to go out there,” Busch said. “We could have camped on our 12th-place run from our earlier outing and been back out here tomorrow. But why not go for it?
“We didn’t have to withdraw our time, so why not go for it and try to get into that final group.
“I gave my heart a run at it. If we end up outside of the Top Nine I know I gave it my all and that was really a neat experience – not to withdraw the time, but go to up against the car and myself to pick up speed. The way you have to challenge a track for a NASCAR run is you have the most downforce and the car is going to be the most at its grip level. Here at Indy you take all the grip away and you take all the downforce – you make the car as uncomfortable as you can make it. And then they tack on three extra laps, so you’re doing 10 miles. So I’ve qualified a Pro Stock car a quarter-mile at a time, I’ve qualified a stock car for 15 years – qualifying at Indy you have to do it over 10 miles and you have to do it in the most unnerving conditions with the car; the car is not ready to go 230 (mph) but you have to handle it.”
Carlos Munoz was the second fastest on Saturday at 230.460 mph in a Dallara/Honda for Andretti Autosport. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, a four-time Indy 500 pole winner, is third at 230.432 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet followed by Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe’s 230.407 mph in a Dallara/Honda and teammate Marco Andretti’s 230.134 mph in a Dallara/Honda.
Simon Pagenaud, last week’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner, was sixth at 230.070 mph in a Dallara/Honda followed by Josef Newgarden’s 230.033 mph in a Dallara/Honda and Hildebrand’s 230.027 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet.
When Ryan Hunter-Reay went out on course at the end of the day to attempt to get back into the Fast Nine Hildebrand thought he was out. But Hunter-Reay’s speed was just 229.899 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet and that was 11th fastest of the session.
“I was having a little miniature freak out in the helmet,” Hildebrand admitted. “When I saw (Josef) Newgarden go out and he went faster by like a little tiny bit like six feet after four laps or something that pissed me off. Then when Ryan Hunter-Reay went out honestly I thought at that point it was over. We were out of time and he has had speed. But the Andretti cars were kind of all over the place so we didn’t really know. That was obviously a massive relief when we saw the lap times starting to come down a little bit.
“I know I owe all this to Ed (Carpenter) and the ECR (Ed Carpenter Racing) for the work. We all know that the speed in these cars doesn’t come through the week it comes from all the prep that goes on beforehand and they gave me a great car. I think tomorrow we will have to go out first, but we definitely got some more speed I think that we can squeeze out of it. We will see what we’ve got.”
But after all the frantic activity on Saturday, which included a brief rain delay midway through the session, nine drivers get to run for the pole.