INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Ed Carpenter has turned Indianapolis Motor Speedway into quite the home track advantage.
Carpenter graduated from Butler, roots for the Indiana Pacers, and has an unabashed love for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” But the stepson of IndyCar founder Tony George is leaving his own imprint on the Indy sports scene each May.
Carpenter took back-to-back pole victories, posting a four-lap average of 231.067 mph Sunday to take the top spot in the 500 for the second straight year.
“I felt that it was harder,” Carpenter said. “It was just a different position because when I made my run last year, we didn’t really have anything to lose. This year, being the last guy to go out, I think there was a little bit of pressure to not mess it up.”
Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet was the car to beat all weekend, and the hometown favorite showed no signs of rust in his first IndyCar Series race of the season. He owns Ed Carpenter Racing and decided in November to run only on ovals, where he excels. He turned his car over to Mike Conway on road and street courses, and skipped the first four races of the season.
In an event steeped in tradition, Carpenter added his own by becoming the 11th driver to win consecutive poles.
“The month of May is fun,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to rush through and miss the parade, drivers meeting, and autograph sessions.”
Carpenter was the last of nine qualifiers to hit the track and bumped James Hinchcliffe from the top spot. Hinchcliffe will start second after sustaining a concussion last weekend in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Will Power will join them on the front row.
Three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves was fourth, followed by Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti. Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden and J.R. Hildebrand will be on the third row.
Carpenter was 10th in last year’s Indy 500.
“It’s all about the race,” the 33-year-old Carpenter said. “Hopefully, we can close the deal this year.”
Here are five things from Indianapolis 500 qualifying:
BUSCH’S DOUBLE: Kurt Busch’s attempt at racing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day is going strong. The 2004 NASCAR champion starts 12th in his first Indy 500, a stout effort for a driver who spent little time in an IndyCar until this month. Busch had a dress rehearsal this weekend when he qualified Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, took a flight to North Carolina for NASCAR’s All-Star race, and returned Sunday morning for Indy 500 practice and qualifying. “I’ll probably never be able to duplicate a day like that in a race car,” he said. “Except next week.” He’ll start from the same spot on the grid as Tony Kanaan did last year when he won his first Indy 500.
MONTOYA’S MARK: Juan Pablo Montoya was a day late with his fastest average of the weekend. But the 2000 Indy 500 winner proved he has enough speed to contend again for a second victory on the bricks. Montoya was the fastest of the non-pole qualifiers and his 231.007 was topped only by pole winner Carpenter. Montoya, who spent the last seven seasons in NASCAR, was faster than his Penske teammates Power and three-time Indy 500 winner Castroneves. Power, however, is on the front row and Castroneves is fourth. “I felt on basically what we saw in practice all week, I felt I probably had the fastest of the three cars at Penske,” Montoya said. “I was really excited about that. We felt we had what we needed to do.”
GANASSI REBOUND: Team owner Chip Ganassi had $1 million reasons to smile Sunday and that was before his drivers rebounded from disappointing qualifying runs on Saturday. Ganassi driver Jamie McMurray won the $1 million prize Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway in NASCAR’s All-Star race. Back in Indy, reigning series champion Scott Dixon had the second-fastest average of non-pole qualifiers and will start 10th. Kanaan, last year’s champ, starts 16th. Charlie Kimball starts 26th and Ryan Briscoe 30th. Kanaan praised his team for making his car better on Sunday. “They stayed late last night and put the time in to pick us up some more speed today,” he said. “It’s not where you start here at Indianapolis. I started from 12th last year and was a contender and won here, so anything is possible.”
MAKING A POINT: For the first time, IndyCar awarded points based on qualifying runs. The top qualifier on Saturday earned 33 points, second place got 32 and so on, all the way to one point for the 33rd-place entrant. The pole winner earned another nine points Sunday, decreasing to one point for the ninth-place starter. Power stretched his points lead without ever taking a checkered flag. He didn’t realize until a broadcaster explained the rule to him that he would be earning points. “Free points in qualifying, that’s great,” Power said.
CHAMPS ARE HERE: There are six former Indianapolis 500 winners in the starting field: Kanaan (2013), Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Scott Dixon (2008), Montoya (2000), Buddy Lazier (1996) and Jacques Villeneuve (1995). They have a combined eight 500 victories. The record for most former winners in the field is 10, in 1992.
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