|Carpenter wins Indy 500 pole for 2nd straight year|
|Sunday, May 18, 2014 8:00 PM|
INDIANAPOLIS — Local driver Ed Carpenter has made himself at home on the Indianapolis 500 pole.
The last of nine qualifiers to take the track, Carpenter bumped James Hinchcliffe from the top spot, posting a 4-lap average of 231.067 mph to win the 500 pole for the second straight year.
“I felt that it was harder,” Carpenter said. “It was just a different position because when I made my run last year, we didn’t really have anything to lose. This year, being the last guy to go out, I think there was a little bit of pressure to not mess it up.”
He didn’t mess it up, not at all.
Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet was the car to beat all weekend and the hometown favorite showed no signs of rust in his first IndyCar Series race of the season. He owns Ed Carpenter Racing and decided in November to run only on ovals, where he excels. He turned his car over to Mike Conway on road and street courses, and skipped the first four races of the season.
He knew he had the pole secured when he nailed the final two corners on the last lap.
Hinchcliffe will start second after sustaining a concussion last weekend in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Will Power will join them on the front row.
Three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves was fourth, followed by Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti. Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden and J.R. Hildebrand will be on the third row.
Carpenter, the stepson of former speedway executive Tony George, was 10th in last year’s Indy 500. He is 11th driver to earn consecutive 500 poles and the first since Castroneves in 2009-10.
As a single-car team last year, Carpenter was unable to get help on data and much-needed setup information. He didn’t want a repeat this May, so he hired Hildebrand to drive a second car at Indy for Ed Carpenter Racing. Hildebrand nearly won the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2011 but crashed exiting the final turn and was passed for the win by the late Dan Wheldon.
Carpenter thrived in the first year of a new Indy 500 qualifying format. He posted the top qualifying speed Saturday when the fastest nine drivers advanced to Sunday’s shootout for the pole.
Juan Pablo Montoya had the fastest four-lap average (231.007 mph) among drivers ineligible to win the Indianapolis 500 pole and will start 10th.
Montoya was followed by reigning series champion Scott Dixon and former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch.
Busch is set to race 1,100 miles in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25. Busch raced in NASCAR’s All-Star race the night before and flew back from Concord, North Carolina, on Sunday morning.
Defending 500 champion Tony Kanaan will start 16th.
Hinchcliffe appeared to have no problems in the car days after he was cleared to return for his concussion. He paced as he watched Carpenter make his final run, then his chance at the pole end when Carpenter found more speed on his final lap.
He was injured last weekend in Saturday’s Grand Prix when debris from Justin Wilson’s car flew into the cockpit, striking Hinchcliffe in the head. He was taken away from the track on a stretcher, transported to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.
The 27-year old Canadian was cleared to drive Thursday and took the wheel back from pinch-driver E.J. Viso.
For the first time, IndyCar awarded points based on qualifying runs. The top qualifier on Saturday earned 33 points, second place got 32 and so on, all the way to one point for the 33rd-place entrant.
The pole winner earned another nine points Sunday, decreasing to one point for the ninth-place starter.
Hornish Jr. win Nationwide race in Iowa
NEWTON, Iowa — Sam Hornish Jr. went from nearly winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series season title to losing his ride.
Hornish reminded everyone Sunday that a lack of sponsorship funding is the only reason he’s not pushing for the champion again.
Hornish Jr., who finished second in the Nationwide Series in 2013, beat pole-winner Ryan Blaney off a restart with 21 laps to go and hung on to win at Iowa Speedway.
Blaney was second, followed by Regan Smith, Chase Elliott and Elliott Sadler in the first stand-alone event of the season.
Hornish, piloting the No. 54 car usually driven by Kyle Busch, led 167 out of 250 laps to win in second start of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hornish, who drove for Penske Racing last year, opened his season as Busch’s substitute with a fifth-place finish at Talladega two weeks ago.
From the start of Sunday’s race, Hornish and Blaney were the only drivers in serious contention.
The 20-year-old Blaney began the race on the outside of the front row after winning his first series pole Saturday. But Hornish, who qualified second, pulled in front on the opening lap. Blaney and Hornish were the only leaders for the first 214 laps, and lapped traffic was often more of a concern that the cars directly behind them.
Blaney eventually caught Hornish at the tail end of a green flag run that lasted roughly 65 laps. But the final restart belonged to Hornish, who fell just three points shy of champion Austin Dillon a year ago.
It was the third win in 101 Nationwide starts for the 34-year-old Hornish, who beat a field featuring three drivers aged 20 or younger in the top six starting spots.
Michael McDowell briefly took the lead with 30 laps to go by taking just two tires while the rest of the leaders took four. But McDowell’s gamble failed to pay off and he settled for seventh.
Elliott finished the most hectic weekend of his young life with an impressive fourth-place finish.
Elliott, an 18-year-old rookie who has already won twice this season, graduated from high school in Georgia on Saturday morning and flew back to Iowa in time to qualify sixth later in the day.
Elliott’s crew hung his graduation cap and tassel on the No. 9 pit box for good luck on Sunday. But Elliott, like everyone else in the field, had no answers for Hornish or Blaney.
Elliott will take a 2-point lead over Sadler and Smith in the series points standings to next week’s race in Charlotte.