INDIANAPOLIS – Two teams have three drivers each starting in the top nine of the 103rd Indianapolis 500.
One is expected, it’s the powerful Team Penske as Simon Pagenaud starts on the pole, with defending Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power sixth and Josef Newgarden eighth.
But the other is Indiana’s own Ed Carpenter Racing, with three of its drivers starting second, third and fourth in Sunday’s race.
Carpenter, a three-time Indianapolis 500 pole winner, barely lost the pole to Pagenaud, who ran a four-lap average of 229.992 mph. Carpenter’s speed was 229.889 mph. Carpenter lost the pole by just .1 of a mile per hour.
“Simon was just more consistent,” Carpenter said. “I think I had the fastest lap of qualifying and usually that’s a good sign for the pole, but I’ve also won a couple of my poles and not had the fastest lap. So, he was just a little more consistent than me, and that’s why he deserves to be on the pole.”
Pagenaud won his first Indianapolis 500 pole on Sunday. Carpenter was attempting to win his fourth and lost it by the narrowest of margins.
“That’s the way this series is now,” Carpenter said. “Everything is just thousandths and hundredths of a second all the way through. The battle that you saw for guys fighting for the 30th spot on Saturday, the ninth spot Saturday and now (Sunday) the strength of this series between the teams and drivers from top to bottom. You’ve got to be perfect to really put it together because if you’re not, everything is so tight you’re going to slide down, and that’s what’s great about being a part of the NTT IndyCar Series is it’s really the best competition in the world.”
Had Sunday’s Fast Nine been rained out, Carpenter’s teammate Spencer Pigot would have been the pole winner because he was the fastest on Saturday.
“Spencer was doing a rain dance, I was wanting to run,” Carpenter said.
Despite the fact he did not win the pole, Pigot was still happy to be starting on the outside of row one.
“Starting front row in the Indy 500 is a real honor, and like Ed said, a testament to our team,” Pigot said. “I wouldn’t say I was doing the rain dance all day. I think as race car drivers we love driving Indy cars at the limit, and you definitely get a chance to do that here in qualifying. Any chance we get to put four laps of qualifying together here is exciting in the car.
“Unfortunately, it was a little short, but like Ed said, great day for the team. 2, 3, 4, and I think all of us were pretty happy with our race cars Wednesday and Thursday, so we have a lot to look forward to and a lot to be confident about heading into next weekend.”
Ed Jones, who shares the No. 20 Chevrolet as the street and road course driver with Carpenter driving on the ovals, is in the No. 63 Chevrolet for the Indianapolis 500. His fourth-place starting position is his best Indianapolis 500 qualifying effort.
“Of course, it’s great to be where we are,” Jones said. “As great as that sounds, I really wanted the pole today. I’m a little bit bummed. I thought we had a good shot at it. It’s just frustrating.”