Fast Nine shootout set for Indy 500 pole

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The final battle for the Indianapolis 500 pole will be an all-Chevrolet affair.

The “Bowtie Brigade” has taken charge of Pole Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with all five Andretti Autosport drivers (Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, E.J. Viso, Ryan Hunter-Reay), all three Team Penske drivers (Will Power, Helio Castroneves and A.J. Allmendinger), and owner/driver Ed Carpenter set to go for the pole at 6:30 p.m. ET. Those drivers will only get one qualifying attempt each in the Fast Nine showdown.

The fastest Honda belonged to Alex Tagliani of Barracuda-BHA, who will start 11th on Race Day in the middle of Row 4.

Will Power’s (pictured) average of 228.844 miles per hour was more than enough to claim the top spot before the Fast Nine, with Hunter-Reay’s speed of 228.282 good for second and Munoz’s speed of 228.171 good for third in that period.

The final hour of qualifying saw some dramatic bumping as drivers aimed to lock themselves into the Top 24. In the end, the big heroes were NBC Sports Network’s own Townsend Bell for Panther Racing and James Jakes of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, who both made the show in the final 10 minutes on their third and last attempts of the day.

Bell qualified 20th on his first attempt, but that was scratched in a bid to better his position. Unfortunately for him, the second attempt was slow enough to take him out of the field. But with 8:45 to go, Bell took the green flag on his third attempt and recovered the speed, posting a average of 225.643 mph — and knocking out Jakes and putting Josef Newgarden on the bubble.

The proverbial ball was then in Jakes’ court, and the British driver took the green for his final attempt with less than four minutes to go. Jakes, whose first attempt was disqualified, put together a solid run of 225.809 mph across his four laps to knock out Newgarden, who could only watch as he was in the qualifying line behind multiple cars.

Also making the field late was Ryan Briscoe, who won the Indy pole last year with Team Penske but had to scrap to make the Top 24 today with Chip Ganassi Racing. Still, Briscoe made it in with an average of 225.265 mph on his final attempt.

Michel Jourdain Jr. was the final qualifier at the 6 p.m. end time, but was not fast enough to get into the field, allowing Simona de Silvestro to stay at the 24th position.

Indianapolis 500

Pole Day Results (6 p.m. ET — Top 24)

1. 12-Will Power, 228.844 mph

2. 1-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 228.282

3. 26-Carlos Munoz, 228.171

4. 3- Helio Castroneves, 227.975

5. 20-Ed Carpenter, 227.952

6. 25-Marco Andretti, 227.893

7. 2-A.J. Allmendinger, 227.761

8. 5-E.J. Viso, 227.612

9. 27-James Hinchcliffe, 227.493

10. 4-J.R. Hildebrand, 227.441

11. 98-Alex Tagliani, 227.386

12. 11-Tony Kanaan, 226.949

13. 22-Oriol Servia, 226.814

14. 19-Justin Wilson, 226.370

15. 7-Sebastien Bourdais, 226.196

16. 9-Scott Dixon, 226.158

17. 10-Dario Franchitti, 226.069

18. 14-Takuma Sato, 225.892

19. 83-Charlie Kimball, 225.880

20. 16-James Jakes, 225.809

21. 77-Simon Pagenaud, 225.674

22. 60-Townsend Bell, 225.643

23. 8-Ryan Briscoe, 225.265

24. 78-Simona de Silvestro, 225.226

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.