Ed Carpenter is playing David versus the Goliaths of Penske and Andretti at Indianapolis this year. The 32-year old Carpenter is the only owner/driver in the Izod IndyCar Series. He’s an Indianapolis native and Tony George’s step son who’s raced Indycars for 10 years.
Carpenter started his own team last year with sponsorship from Fuzzy’s Vodka and made the wise decision to hire Derrick Walker to run his new team. Ed was competitive in many oval races and came through to score an excellent win in the the season-closing 500-mile race at the California Speedway, beating Dario Franchitti across the line.
At Indianapolis last weekend, Carpenter was the only non-Penske or Andretti driver to advance into the final ‘fast nine’ qualifying run-off. Carpenter finished the opening round in fifth place but rose to the occasion for the pole position run-off late on Saturday afternoon. He started with a strong lap over 229 mph and was able to run three more consistent laps than anyone else, keeping his speed up on the third and fourth laps while his rivals’ performances fell away.
Carpenter averaged 228.762 mph over the four laps to beat Colombian rookie Carlos Muñoz and Marco Andretti to the pole and become the first owner/driver to qualify on pole at Indianapolis since AJ Foyt back in 1975. “To be a single car team and be in this shoot-out is an accomplishment in itself,” Carpenter said. “But for this team to put in the hard work to give me what I needed to go out and put it on pole is another level of accomplishment. It’s a tribute to Derrick (Walker) and Tim Broyles and all the engineers and crew. We’ve done what we had to do this weekend. Now we’ve got to go out and perform in the race.”
Can Carpenter win next Sunday’s 97th Indianapolis 500? He showed he can win a 500-mile race in California last September and also won on the one-mile Kentucky oval in 2011. Ed is nothing but a gentleman, gracious at all times, and is an excellent oval racer who’s improved his road and street racing in recent years under Walker’s tutelage. It would be a great thing if a home town boy like Carpenter could win the 500.
So too would it be equally remarkable if Derrick Walker emerged as a winner of the big race in his last time ‘round as an owner/manager before assuming his new role the day after the 500 as IndyCar’s competition and operations boss. We wish Carpenter and Walker the best of luck next Sunday.
Carpenter aside, the other eight cars to make the ‘fast nine’ final qualifying session all were from Roger Penske or Michael Andretti’s teams. All three of Penske’s drivers – Will Power, Helio Castroneves and AJ Allmendinger – made the cut plus every one of Andretti’s five drivers – Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, EJ Viso and rookie Muñoz.
The latter is making his IndyCar debut at Indianapolis this month. The 21-year old Colombian is racing in this year’s Indy Lights series and won two of this year’s first three races. At Indianapolis, Muñoz was among the fastest cars all week, turning the fastest lap during Thursday’s practice and eventually beating all but Carpenter in last Saturday’s pole runs. Muñoz was less than three tenths of a second slower than Carpenter over the four qualifying laps. “Carlos is the real deal,” said team owner Michael Andretti. “He’s quick and has a good head on his shoulders.”
Marco Andretti completes the front row for this year’s 500 with team-mate EJ Viso on the inside of row two beside Penske teammates AJ Allmendinger and Will Power. Allmendinger is making his rookie start at Indianapolis while Power was the favourite to take pole but couldn’t sustain the pace after two opening laps over 229 mph. Power’s last two laps were much slower, however, and he qualified sixth. Defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified seventh ahead of Helio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe.
Chevrolet-powered cars dominated qualifying, sweeping the top 10 places, with Alex Tagliani the fastest Honda driver in 11th. Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti qualified their Honda-powered Ganassi cars 16th and 17th while championship leader Takuma Sato qualified his Honda-powered A.J Foyt entry 18th. Honda’s US racing chief Roger Griffiths suggests Honda will bounce back on race day like last year when Franchitti and Dixon came from the middle of the field to finish 1-2 for Ganassi but many people believe Chevrolet’s qualifying rout will be repeated in the race.
Franchitti and Castroneves will attempt to win their fourth Indy 500s next Sunday while Dixon will be chasing his second win in the big race. Everyone else, poleman Carpenter included, will be pursuing their first win at the Speedway.
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