Photo: Jim Haines
Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevrolet) will start from the pole of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race for the second year in a row. The 33-car field is the fastest in Indianapolis 500 history (229.382 mph), breaking the previous record of 228.648 mph set in 2002. The owner/driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevy was the final qualifier May 18 and recorded a four-lap average of 231.067 mph to bump James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport, Honda) from the top spot for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Carpenter is the 11th driver to earn back-to-back poles for the Indianapolis 500 -- the most recent Helio Castroneves in 2009-10. Carpenter's four-lap average was the fastest since 2003, when Castroneves won the pole (231.725 mph) and was the race runner-up. Carpenter earned the Verizon P1 Award last May with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph.
"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 but finished 10th. "Now it's all about the race, and we want to close the deal."
Carpenter’s team is off to a great start in 2014, having hired Mike Conway to run the road course events for the one-car operation. Heading into the 500, with four road/street courses raced, Conway stood sixth in driver’s points, including victory at Long Beach.
The Fast Nine Shootout closed two intriguing days of qualifications under a new format that set the field May 17 and determined starting positions May 18. Juan Pablo Montoya (Team Penske, Chevy), returning to the 500 for the first time since his 2000 win, recorded a four-lap average of 231.007 mph to lead qualifiers for positions 10-33. He'll be on Row 4 with reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevy; 230.928 mph average) and first-year competitor and NASCAR stalwart Kurt Busch (230.027; Andretti Autosport, Honda).
Busch is only the fourth driver to attempt to complete the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, joining John Andretti, Tony Stewart, and current off-road specialist Robby Gordon. Of these, only Stewart finished both races.
The 2.1509-sec time difference between Carpenter and P33-qualifier, 1996 Indy 500 winner, 46-year old Buddy Lazier (Lazier Partners Racing Inc., Chevy), is the closest field by time in the 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.
Hinchcliffe, who eight days earlier suffered a concussion in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and was cleared to drive May 15, registered a fast lap of 231.618 mph on his first lap in the session and averaged 230.839 mph. Will Power (230.697 average; Team Penske, Chevy) will start on the outside of Row 1 -- his second front-row start. With three Top 5 finishes in four races to start 2014, Power leads the point standings, but has yet to win the Indy 500.
Castroneves (Team Penske, Chevy), seeking his fourth Indy 500 victory, recorded the fastest qualifying lap of the two days (231.671 mph) in the Fast Nine Shootout. A win by Castroneves, whose previous victories came in 2001, 2002, and 2009, would have him join AJ Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears as the 500’s only four-time winners.
Simon Pagenaud (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda; 230.614) and Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport, Honda; 230.544), who qualified third last year, will join Castroneves on Row 2. Pagenaud won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the track’s road course, and would very much like to sweep this year’s Indy events.
Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport – HVM Racing, Honda), who started and finished second last year as a rookie, qualified on the inside of Row 3 (230.146). Josef Newgarden, in his third season with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (Honda), qualified eighth (229.893) and JR Hildebrand (Chevy; 228.726), the 2011 race runner-up as a rookie and driving the second Ed Carpenter Racing entry in this year’s race, qualified ninth.