Ed Carpenter emerged as the surprise winner in the battle for pole position for the Indianapolis 500.
IndyCar's only full-time owner/driver had ended the initial qualifying session with the fifth-fastest time, and strung together a sequence of four laps at 229.347mph, 228.976mph, 228.774mph and 227.955mph laps to finish up with an average of 228.762mph.
"Victories were great, but an Indianapolis 500 pole is the best,” said Carpenter, an Indianapolis resident who won the series' last oval race last September at Fontana's Auto Club Speedway. “This is the start of a dream come true (but) this is just the first part of what we want to do. To fight with the Penskes and Andrettis is an accomplishment in itself.”
The upsets continued when Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz secured second on the grid with a 228.342mph average, with teammate Marco Andretti completing the front row courtesy of his 228.261mph effort.
"I don't have too many words to describe how happy I am; just to be a rookie on the front row is a dream come true," said the Indy Lights standout. "I was happy with the car in the first qualifying, but we did a couple of changes and it worked out. We didn't expect Carpenter to go so fast, but he just put in really good laps. I can't say anything – front row is just perfect for the race. I have my teammate just on the side of me; I have great people around me with a lot of experience. Right now I have to focus on the race. I have to finish this month off just the way I started it."
The last time a rookie started second was with Juan-Pasblo Montoya in 2000 – and he won...
All of the favorites struggled in the final shootout. Will Power, who had topped opening qualifying, started strongly with a 229.119mph opening lap, but fell away over the remainder of his run and was left on the outside of the second row in sixth with an average of 228.087mph.
"We took everything off and went for it – definitely starting the last lap I really did not want to do it," Power admitted. "Even the last two corners, you're like, 'Man, I don't know whether this thing is going to stick.' But good fun, and it's good to be starting on the second row, and we'll see what we can do."
Reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay dropped from second fastest in opening qualifying to seventh after his car went loose, leaving him just ahead of Helio Castroneves, who will start from eighth.
"We want to go for it, and we went for it," said the three-time winner. "Obviously a lot of people did the same, and you've got to hold on for four laps. It was very hard. Sometimes it pays off. In the past it paid off, today it did not. But hey, it's not where you start, it's where you finish."
Carpenter seconded that point, cautioning that he didn't want to lose sight of the main focus despite the jubilation of the day.
"I love the race a whole lot more than qualifying, and I really want to send a message and make sure I lead by example to the team and make sure we don't forget why we're really here," he said. "This is fun and it's huge for our team. I don't want to think that it's not. But the pole won't mean much if we don't go out and perform on race day."
Indianapolis 500 provisional starting lineup:
Pos Driver Team/Car Speed
1. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy 228.762
2. Carlos Munoz Andretti/Chevy 228.342
3. Marco Andretti Andretti/Chevy 228.261
4. EJ Viso Andretti/Chevy 228.150
5. AJ Allmendinger Penske/Chevy 228.099
6. Will Power Penske/Chevy 228.087
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Chevy 227.904
8. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy 227.762
9. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Chevy 227.070
10. JR Hildebrand Panther/Chevy 227.441
11. Alex Tagliani Herta/Honda 227.386
12. Tony Kanaan KV/Chevy 226.949
13. Oriol Servia Panther DRR/Chevy 226.814
14. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda 226.370
15. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon/Chevy 226.196
16. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Honda 226.158
17. Dario Franchitti Ganassi/Honda 226.069
18. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda 225.892
19. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Honda 225.880
20. James Jakes Rahal/Honda 225.809
21. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda 225.674
22. Townsend Bell Panther/Chevy 225.643
23. Ryan Briscoe Ganassi/Honda 225.265
24. Simona de Silvestro KV/Chevy 225.226
Positions 1-9 set in Fast Nine
Positions 10-24 set earlier on Pole Day
Positions 25-33 to be decided on Bump Day