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.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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