Carpenter Leads 'Fast 9' Above 230 MPH Average
It might require Ed Carpenter to top his heart-racing four-lap average speed of 230.661 mph -- set late in Round 1 of qualifications May 17 for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race -- to secure the Verizon P1 Award in the Fast Nine Shootout on May 18.
That's doable, with conducive track and weather conditions for the session that begins at 2 p.m. (ET), according to the Verizon IndyCar Series team owner/driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka car. Qualifiers 10-33 also are required to make another four-lap run May 18 to determine their position in the 200-lap race.
View Saturday, May 17 Qualifying Results
ABC will televise qualifications (1-3 p.m. ET), with www.watchespn.com providing additional coverage around the TV window. The IMS Radio Network broadcast can be heard on network affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213, on www.indycar.com in conjunction with Timing & Scoring and the INDYCAR 13 app.
Carpenter led 10 entries that surpassed 230 mph -- the first qualifiers above 230 since 2003 -- during the entertaining six-hour session that featured a total of 71 qualifying attempts. In 2003, four entries recorded a four-lap average above 230 mph. Scott Dixon was the first (230.999), followed by Robby Gordon (230.205), Tony Kanaan (231.006) and Helio Castroneves, who went out at 4:36 p.m. and posted a 231.725 mph average (232.215 fastest lap) to earn the pole.
Carpenter set the tone early with a four-lap average speed of 230.114 mph, and after being knocked to fifth on the speed chart, went out for the second time with an hour left.
"It's stressful qualifying here and the less you have to do it the better," said Carpenter, who posted a session-best lap of 230.863 mph on his second attempt. "I think we have a good chance for the pole, but the field is very tight this year. There are so many good cars and drivers out there. It will come down on who gets it right on the day for the pole. It really comes down to being perfect for four laps."
Carpenter earned the Verizon P1 Award last May with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car with a top speed of 229.347 mph on Lap 1. It was the best four-lap average since 2006 when Sam Hornish Jr. won the pole with a four-lap average of 228.985 mph.
"Every day you come out you want to be the best you can be," Carpenter added. "It's always fun being quickest at Indy. You get into these two days and you can't really think about the race or work on your race car. If you've got a fast car like the Fuzzy's guys, you try to do the best you can with it."
Carpenter was joined in the 230 club by Carlos Munoz (230.460 mph), who started and finished second in 2013 as a rookie, Castroneves (230.432), James Hinchcliffe (230.407), Will Power (230.323), Marco Andretti (230.134), Simon Pagenaud (230.070), Josef Newgarden (230.033) and JR Hildebrand (230.027).
Newgarden, in his third season with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, bumped Rayn Hunter-Reay from the fast nine with his run in the final five minutes of the session. Five different teams are represented in the Fast Nine Shootout.
Hunter-Reay's teammate for the month, Kurt Busch, who is seeking to be the fourth driver to compete in the Indy 500 and the stock car race in Concord, N.C., the same day, was 12th after his initial qualifying run (229.256 mph). With an hour to spare before having to leave for the evening all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch moved into the top nine (229.960) and departed by helicopter satisfied with the day's efforts. By the time he landed, Juan Pablo Montoya had bumped Busch from the fast nine with a four-lap average of 229.966 mph. Montoya was summarily bumped by Andretti.
"I’ve qualified a Pro Stock car on the quarter-mile. I've done the longest track on the NASCAR circuit (Talladega), but to do four laps here ... just the shear excitement of trusting a car with downforce going down into Turn 1 at 230 is indescribable," Busch said. "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. It's been an experience, the Month of May in an IndyCar.”