Ed Carpenter wins pole for the 97th Indianapolis 500

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Thrilling the hometown fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana native Ed Carpenter rocketed to the pole position for next weekend’s Indianapolis 500, becoming the first Hoosier since Pat O’Connor in 1957 to win the pole for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Carpenter, who is the IZOD IndyCar Series’ sole owner/driver, was the fifth of the top nine qualifiers to make an attempt in the Fast Nine pole shootout. But his four-lap average of 228.762 miles per hour in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet was enough to keep him ahead of the entirety of both the Team Penske and Andretti Autosport driving stables.

“I knew we had a shot,” Carpenter told NBC Sports Network’s Marty Snider once he knew the pole was his. “I thought coming in that we had a chance to be either winning the pole or outside the Top 10 — this field is unbelievable. To be able to sit on pole for this race, it’s a really big start to a dream come true…This is just the first part of what we’re here to do.”

“To be a single-car team and win this ‘Chevy shootout’ as I’ll call it, fighting with Penske and Andretti guys — that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. But for this team to put in the hard work and give me what I needed to put it on pole is great. I think a whole lot of prayers went into this, too. Every qualifying run I did today, I was praying the whole way and I was praying when I got done.”

Penske’s Will Power, who had posted an average of 228.844 mph before the Fast Nine, was the last man out and his first lap clocked in at over 229 mph (faster than Carpenter’s average). But even though he was going as fast as 236 mph through the Turn 1 trap during his run, his subsequent laps were not enough to keep him at the top and he was forced to settle for sixth.

In addition to Carpenter, the front row for the 97th running of the “500” will also feature Colombian rookie Carlos Munoz, who easily had the most nerve-wracking run of the Fast Nine but still qualified second with an average of 228.342 mph. On the outside of that row will be Marco Andretti, who posted an average of 228.261 mph.

The second row will feature Venezuela’s E.J. Viso, another rookie in A.J. Allmendinger, and Power. Row 3 will have plenty of star wattage, with reigning series champ Ryan Hunter-Reay, three-time “500” winner Helio Castroneves, and the series’ most recent race winner, James Hinchcliffe.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”