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Ed Carpenter once again on front row for Indy 500

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It’s a habit – a good one at that – that Ed Carpenter can’t and doesn’t want to break.

The veteran driver qualified second for next Sunday’s 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, marking the fourth time in the last five years either he or one of his Ed Carpenter Racing teammates (Carpenter won 2013 and 2014 poles, Josef Newgarden started second last year) that he’s started the Greatest Spectacle In Racing from the front row.

Carpenter will start in the middle of the front row alongside pole winner Scott Dixon on the inside and defending Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi on the outside, with a speed of 231.664 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

“Being in the middle in the fifth row is a lot harder than being in the middle of the front row,” Carpenter said. “There will be a hole for me in there, whether I get the holeshot or am able to fall in behind Scott or whoever.

“This will be my 14th one of these. One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t choreograph what you’re going to do on the start of this race. It goes different every single time, so just take it as it comes.”

Carpenter was the fastest qualifier during Saturday’s qualifying, was actually one mph faster today than yesterday, but as he said, “It wasn’t fast enough.”

“I heard the crowd first and knew it was going to be a big number,” Carpenter said of his run Sunday to ABC. “It was kind of like yesterday. I thought if you told me we were going to average what I did, I would have thought that probably would have been the pole. … I wasn’t sure we were going to be beat.”

But Dixon went out and earned his third career pole for the 500 and Carpenter was relegated to a second-place starting spot.

“I’m happy for the team,” he said. “We’ve got a car on the front row and a car on the second row (J.R. Hildebrand will start sixth).

“Fuzzy’s Vodka keeps providing for us, the team keeps providing for me. It’s nice to have a Chevy on the front row, but when I saw Dixon’s car, I knew it would be hard to beat.”

Now, Carpenter goes through Monday’s practice as he and his team continue to work for what they hope will be his first Indy 500 title.

“Tomorrow is always an important day to put the race car to bed and put it away feeling like you have it just where you want to be, but I’m content,” he said. “I’ve been happier and more confident with my race car, but tomorrow is an important day.”

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Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.