INDIANAPOLIS – After winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 for the second straight year, Ed Carpenter’s nickname should be “Easy Ed.”
Carpenter made it look easy in the first year of the new format for qualifications for the 98th Indianapolis 500. He made just two attempts during Saturday’s unlimited free-for-all where teams and drivers could make as many qualification attempts as they wanted and was the fastest after each run.
He advanced into Sunday’s “Fast Nine” that would determine the Indy 500 pole. As the fastest driver from Saturday’s qualifications he would be the last of the nine drivers that would have one shot at a four-lap run to take the pole.
He did it with ease, driving his Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara/Chevrolet to a four-lap average of 231.067 miles per hour to become the 11th driver to win back-to-back poles for the Indy 500. The last driver to do that was Helio Castroneves in 2009-10.
As the final qualifier, Carpenter knocked “Comeback Kid” James Hinchcliffe off the top of the scoring pylon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the Andretti Autosport driver ran a four-lap average of 230.839 mph in a Dallara/Honda. Hinchcliffe suffered a concussion in the May 10 Grand Prix of Indianapolis and didn’t take laps in Indy 500 practice until Friday’s practice session that was cut to just 18 minutes because of rain.
Although the other competitors in Gasoline Alley thought Carpenter had the edge entering Sunday’s final round of qualifications, the owner/driver admitted he wasn’t as confident as the competition.
“You can ask any one of my engineers, my wife Heather, anyone on the team, I get extremely paranoid the week before practice here,” Carpenter admitted. “I feel like every year coming in I have this giant fear we’re going to be really slow and really struggle.
“I think that me annoying the guys is what keeps them working so hard so they can shut me up when we finally do get here.”
Carpenter is the only driver in the “Fast Nine” that went faster than Team Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner. Montoya’s four-lap average was 231.007 mph but he did not make the final group of nine drivers in Saturday’s round of qualifications so he will start 10th – the inside of Row 4 – in next Sunday’s Indy 500.
When it came to speed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway nobody went faster than Carpenter on either day. His first attempt on Saturday was 230.114 miles per hour and his second attempt later in the day was 230.661 mph.
“The team did a phenomenal job,” Carpenter said. “Like I said earlier joking around, I’m always paranoid about how we’re going to be coming in here. The team was preparing two cars for this race before we ever even knew we were going to be running a second car here.
“I’m just really blessed to have a lot of great people behind me on the team and partners of the team with Fuzzy’s and Chevrolet and Preferred Freezers that’s now onboard. All their hard work and dedication are what make weekends like this possible.”