Indy 500 qualifying: Carpenter fastest, battle of Americans for final Fast Nine positions

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When all was said and done, the underdogs slayed the giants yet again when it came to those who made the Fast Nine shootout for Sunday’s second round of qualifying for the 98th Indianapolis 500.

The breakdown of teams that made the Fast Nine shootout? Three Andretti Autosport entries, two Ed Carpenter Racing entries, two Team Penske entries, and a single entry from Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

Among the teams that didn’t? Neither Chip Ganassi Racing (four cars, plus the fifth affiliated entry for Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing) nor KV Racing Technology (four cars) – the teams that have won the last two Indianapolis 500s – got anywhere near the Fast Nine.

Ed Carpenter was fastest after the first run and the defending Indianapolis 500 pole sitter has achieved the maximum number of possible points today, after a second run within the last hour and a half of running was the day’s fastest at 230.661 mph.

But the drama came down to the final couple spots in the Fast Nine depending on whether teams opted to withdraw times and need to set a flier from Lane 1 (the express lane), or make another qualifying attempt from Lane 2 and leave their original time vacant.

The final 15 minutes saw SFHR’s Josef Newgarden break in and ECR’s Indianapolis-only second driver, JR Hildebrand, hold on, while 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Andretti team took the withdraw their time option and they were not able to break back into the Fast Nine.

Kurt Busch was ultimately 10th after feeling like he had given everything he could, although he needed to leave for Charlotte before making another attempt in the final couple hours.

Here’s a full breakdown of the qualifying runs. Points will be awarded from 33 down to 1 depending on the positions from today; this also determines the pit positions for the Indianapolis 500, held May 25.

The actual run for the pole, with those Fast 9 participants, as well as the remaining spots 10-33, will be determined tomorrow. Teams have until 7 p.m. ET tonight to enter an extra car, and that appears unlikely.

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MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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