Ed Carpenter Racing, Team Penske dominate Fast 9 qualifying positions

Four teams will battle for the pole position of the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500, but two of those teams have 7 of the Fast 9 positions covered. Given no-tow speeds on Friday, it’s not surprising to see all four of the Team Penske drivers (Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power) in that mix, but the pleasant surprise and crazy impressive feat of Saturday was seeing Ed Carpenter Racing put all three of their cars in the first three rows.

Spencer Pigot, strapped in to his No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service ECR Chevrolet, was the fifth car to take to the track on bump day. He put up an average lap speed of 228.052, less than 9 tenths of a second behind Helio Castroneves, who had just put up the fastest qualifying speed of the morning and a time that would stand for the entire day. Pigot only dropped 4 positions over the course of the day, running P6 when the checkereds waved.

Pigot’s boss Carpenter was one of the driver’s that slid in ahead of him on the timing charts, with a 228.692 lap good enough for P2, right between Castroneves and Pagenaud. Carpenter’s third car, piloted by IndyCar veteran Danica Patrick, is the No. 13 GoDaddy ECR Chevrolet and she ran it straight into P5 on her one and only attempt of the day. It aged well, and was a P9 time by the end of the day. Danica Patrick will make a run for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 pole today. I never thought I’d type that but I have to admit, that’s pretty freakin’ cool.

Speaking of aging well, there were a ton of laughs in yesterday’s press conference after bump day concluded. It started when a member of the media addressed the panel of Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter and Danica Patrick… asking them whatever happened the ‘the youth movement’ in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

They couldn’t stop laughing. We couldn’t stop laughing. Well, here, just read that portion of the transcript. Make sure you’re reading it with a tone of constant sarcasm.

Question from Media: What happened to the youth movement in IndyCar?

ED CARPENTER: Like he’s saying there’s a lot of old people up here.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: We’re still young.

ED CARPENTER: How old are you?

SIMON PAGENAUD: 34 but only as of yesterday.

DANICA PATRICK: Helio, you’re 37?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Nah, I’m 34 too.

DANICA PATRICK: Well I’m 24 then (laughter).

ED CARPENTER: That’s why I cut my hair short now, because the gray goes away.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That’s why I have a PPG paint here (takes hat off, touches hair) (laughter).

ED CARPENTER: What was the question?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Basically we all very old, that’s what he said. What do you answer to that?

ED CARPENTER: I think the youth movement is alive and well. I think the talent in this field is really strong and there’s a lot of good young guys. But I think especially when you go through times like this with new cars, I think it can be helpful for us old guys. We’ve driven more different types of cars, different aero, different downforce.

I think at times, even though it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks – is that how it goes – I think sometimes past experience helps when you can remember it. (laughter)

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That’s a good one.

DANICA PATRICK: I can’t even hear very well (laughter).

Question from Media: Helio, you came here a lot of years ago and won as a rookie. Now you’re again at the top. What are the odds to see you come to the fence again?

ED CARPENTER: What year was that?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That was 2001.

ED CARPENTER: I wasn’t even here yet.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Look at this guy. So I have more experience than you guys.

SIMON PAGENAUD: I wasn’t even racing (laughter).

HELIO CASTRONEVES: All right, very good.

DANICA PATRICK: Keep it coming.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: We’ll see who is going to be laughing at the end of the race (laughter).

I absolutely love those moments. Great to see competitors have such camaraderie with one another.

It was a needed reprieve yesterday as well, given our first legitimate bump day since 2011 that saw James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann not qualify for the ‘500’. I supposed that’s also why I wanted to share it with you. As hard as yesterday was for a lot of folks, there was an obvious positive side to it as well – we have 33 drivers and 17 teams that did qualify and will fill up all 11 rows of 3 on Memorial Day Weekend.

Among those drivers are four former ‘500’ polesitters – Carpenter (2), Castroneves (4), Dixon (3) and Kanaan (1). The first three of those drivers listed are in today’s Fast 9 and will trying to add to their tallies. There are also 6 past ‘500’ winners in the field – Castroneves, whose last full-season with the series was last year but he’s still battling for that elusive fourth ‘500’ victory; Scott Dixon won in 2008, the same year as the first of his 3 poles; Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Tony Kanaan (2013), Alexander Rossi (2016), and the defending winner Takuma Sato.

Today we have practice in the first half of the afternoon and then we will hope for decent weather to determine grid positions 10 – 33 at 2:45 p.m. and then battle for the pole starting at 5pm. Here’s hoping we have a safe day without any delays.

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Email: shay@livefullthrottle.net

Photo credit: Chris Owens, IndyCar

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