Watching IndyCar racing on television is simply no match for actually being in the stands. But even watching at home was exciting as driver Ed Carpenter broke the 230 mph barrier on Sunday on the first of his four qualifying laps trying to get the pole position on Pole Day for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
It was his fastest lap of the four in his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet – he averaged 229.618 mph, the only driver to average in the 229 mph range – and was good enough to earn him his third pole position for the Indy 500.
“That first lap blew my mind,” Carpenter said during a live interview with ABC after his pole position was secure.
Once that first lap of the 230.088 mph went up on the board for Carpenter, the crowds at the 2.5-mile oval roared for the Indiana native. Carpenter always seems to qualify well at Indy, though he’s never won the race.
Carpenter ruined what would have been a “Penske Perfect” front row with Team Penske drivers Simon Pagenaud (228.761 mph) and Will Power (228.607 mph) rounding out the middle and outside of row one, followed by Josef Newgarden (228.405 mph) on the inside of row two. Helio Castroneves, the only active driver able to compete for his fourth Indy 500, was the final car to qualify Sunday but failed to crack the top speed. He’ll start eighth as the fourth Penske addition. Team Penske has won 16 Indy 500s.
Though Carpenter is wearing his driver hat for the month of May, all three of his Ed Carpenter Racing cars are starting up front. Spencer Pigot will start on the outside of row two in sixth. Danica Patrick will start on the inside of row three in seventh in her triumphant return to the speedway to round out her career.
Sebastien Bourdais, who suffered severe injuries in a crash during last year’s Indy 500 qualifying, will start in the middle of row two in fifth. Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner and last year’s polesitter, will start ninth. These top nine drivers all went out Sunday as part of the Fast Nine Shootout trying to earn the pole position.
The rest of the field solidified their 10-33 spots with four-lap average qualifying runs as well. Tony Kanaan and his rookie teammate Matheus Leist, driving for the legendary, four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, turned in the fastest speeds among the rest of the field and will start 10th and 11th next Sunday.
Average speeds on Pole Day ranged from Carpenter’s 229.618 mph to 224.429 mph from Conor Daly who will start in 33rd position on the outside of row 11. One of the bigger surprises from the day was the 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi dropping down to 32nd position (224.935 mph) after qualifying just out of the Fast Nine on Saturday.
The defending champ, Takuma Sato, will start 16th on the inside of row six.