News & Multimedia

Top Moments of 2018 - #5: Carpenter Prevents Penske Front Row Lockout

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2018 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ed Carpenter is one of the most easygoing drivers and team owners in the IndyCar Series, but man, does he know drama on Pole Day for the Indianapolis 500.

Indianapolis resident Carpenter added another stirring chapter to his story of speed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 20 as he earned his third career pole for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” His dramatic run to the top spot also prevented Penske Racing from achieving a team sweep of the front row for just the second time in the 102 editions of the world’s most prestigious motor race.

Carpenter has been one of the fastest drivers in Indianapolis 500 qualifying in recent years, winning “500” poles in 2013 and 2014 and qualifying second in 2017. So it came as no surprise when he qualified second behind Team Penske star and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves on Bump Day, Saturday, May 19, which set the field for the Fast Nine Shootout for the “500” pole the next day.

Team Penske, which has won a record 17 Indianapolis 500 poles, put a temporary lock on only the second front-row sweep ever at Indy during the final 30 minutes of the Shootout. Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden held the top three spots when Carpenter rolled out of the pits to make his qualifying run as the penultimate driver in the qualifying line.

The dream of more history for the most successful team in Indianapolis 500 history quickly evaporated when Carpenter ripped off a first lap at 230.088 – nearly 1 mph faster than Pagenaud’s best lap and the only 230-mph lap of either day of qualifying.

With the crowd roaring on every lap, Carpenter stayed on rails for the next three trips around the oval, turning laps of 229.808, 229.519 and 229.061. His four-lap average was a stout 229.618 mph in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

Only one driver remained in line, four-time pole winner Castroneves, who was fastest in Bump Day qualifying. Carpenter, his family and crew watched from pit lane as Castroneves’ first lap appeared on the video boards – 228.992. When Castroneves’ second lap of 228.184 flashed on the screens, Carpenter was almost certain the pole was his.

Castroneves faded into the 227-mph range and into the third row on his last two laps, and the celebration began for the driver who started his career in USAC short-track racing on tracks in Central Indiana and the Midwest before climbing to IndyCar and becoming a silky-smooth oval specialist.

Penske drivers missed only the second front-row sweep ever – Penske supernovas Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser pulled off the feat in 1988 – but still managed to capture the next three spots in the starting lineup with three former IndyCar Series champions. Pagenaud ended up second at 228.761, Power third at 228.607 and Newgarden fourth at 228.405.

Still, Penske drivers were bewildered at the speed Carpenter showed on his pole run.

“I don't know what else I could take off the car that would make a mile-an-hour,” Power said. “Ed has got something good going there, and obviously doing a good job over the four laps.”

Carpenter is the last person to draw attention to himself or his accomplishments. He’s also not a man prone to hyperbole. So when he said after qualifying that his pole run was the easiest of his three career dashes to the top qualifying spot for the “500,” you had to believe him and just shake your head in admiration.

“It's never easy qualifying here, but it was,” Carpenter said. “Every other pole I've won here, at least one of the laps, I was right-hand-down loose on the last lap. The balance (today) was just perfect for all four laps. So that's what I meant by it was easy, just the balance was perfect, but it's still never easy doing what we do. But they certainly gave me a great car today.”

And Carpenter gave one heck of a show to everyone at the track and watching on TV that day.

Show More Show Less
Items 1 - 5 of 1,945