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.

Carlos Munoz back at Andretti Autosport for 2018 Indy 500

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After posting two runner-up finishes and three top-five results in four starts with Andretti Autosport at the Indianapolis 500, Colombian Carlos Munoz will come home to the team as its sixth driver in the 2018 race. He’ll instantly vault into win contention, given his pedigree at the Speedway and joining Andretti’s team that has won three of the last four ‘500s there.

Munoz raced full-time with Andretti Autosport from 2014 through 2016. While he scored his first career win at Detroit race one in 2015, and was series rookie of the year in 2014, it’s his runner-up results as a race rookie in 2013 and again in the 2016 race to teammate Alexander Rossi that loom largest.

Now, Munoz, who spent a single season at A.J. Foyt Enterprises before both he and Conor Daly were not retained for a second year, will join Andretti’s full-season quartet of Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach along with previously announced fifth driver Stefan Wilson.

This will add another confirmed Honda entry to next year’s race. Honda has 12 full-season entries expected among Andretti’s four cars, then two apiece from the Ganassi, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Schmidt Peterson and Coyne teams.

That number grows with Andretti’s two extra cars, and the combination of the SPM/Michael Shank car for Jack Harvey to confirm at least 15 Hondas for the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Honda has traditionally capped its number of entries at 18 cars.

The full release is below.

A familiar face will make its way back to the Andretti Autosport stable for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race as Carlos Muñoz returns to the team, vying for his chance to kiss the bricks.

Muñoz made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut with Andretti Autosport at the 2013 Indianapolis 500, where he finished second, earning himself Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors. The Colombian-native went on to compete full time with the team the following year. In 2016, Muñoz once again finished runner-up when his rookie teammate, Alexander Rossi, crossed the Yard of Bricks on a fuel-saving strategy to win the 100th Indy 500.

“I am very excited to be a part of Andretti Autosport again,” said Muñoz. “The team has been like family to me since day one, when I joined them five years ago to race Indy Lights. We have been so close to winning the Indy 500 – twice with the team – so I am especially excited to be back for that race and hopefully we will have a good result this year. I need to thank Michael [Andretti] and J-F [Thormann] for believing in me and wanting me to back in their car for the Indy 500. I am also excited to be back with my teammates, and I think we will continue to work really well together. We have six cars, so hopefully we will have a strong team working with the new [aero kit]. I am really looking forward to it – hopefully we can finally get that win we’ve been so close to.”

Muñoz will look to pick up where he left off with Andretti Autosport and add to the team’s historical success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team mirror’s Muñoz’s enthusiasm and is excited to have secured its complete lineup before the new year.

“We’re thrilled to have Carlos back in an Andretti car for the Indy 500,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “There is no denying that Carlos has talent at [Indianapolis Motor Speedway], he’s finished runner-up twice and that has fueled his determination to get to victory lane. He has already built relationships with his teammates and many of those on our crew, so it should be a seamless process for our six cars when they head out for the first time together.”

The veteran driver has built a resume that consists of 70 Verizon IndyCar Series starts, one win (Detroit Race 1, 2015), one pole position (Texas, 2016) and seven podiums. Muñoz competed under the Andretti shield from 2013 to 2016 and finished 17th in the 2017 IndyCar season.

Andretti Autosport has collected five Indianapolis 500 victories (Wheldon/’05, Franchitti/’06, Hunter-Reay/’14, Rossi/’16, Sato/’17) and seeks to become only the second team to earn three consecutive Indy 500 wins. Muñoz will join teammates Rossi, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach and Stefan Wilson on opening day in May for the team’s six-car effort.