Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Ed Carpenter topped the charts in Saturday's first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, as he will attempt to win his second straight pole position for this prestigious race on Sunday.
Carpenter, the driver/owner of the No. 20 car, posted a four-lap average speed of 230.661 mph in the late stages of the qualifying round. He and eight other drivers will compete for the Indy 500 pole during Sunday's "Fast Nine" shootout, scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.
The top-nine drivers in day 1 of qualifying will run in reverse order during the shootout, meaning Carpenter is the last one who makes his four-lap attempt. Carpenter is running a limited schedule in the IndyCar Series this year. The May 25 Indy 500 will be his first race of the season.
Carpenter led the way early in qualifying at 230.114 mph, but after being knocked to fifth on the speed chart, he went out for the second time with an hour left.
"It's stressful qualifying here, so the less you have to do it the better," Carpenter said. "I think we have a good chance for the pole, but the field is very tight this year. There are so many good cars and drivers out there. It will come down to who gets it right on the day for the pole. It really comes down to being perfect for four laps."
Carpenter won the pole for the 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013 with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph. He became the first driver/owner to claim the top starting position for this event since 1975.
"It's always fun being quickest at Indy," Carpenter added.
Joining Carpenter in the shootout will be J.R. Hildebrand, who is driving a second entry for Carpenter (No. 21 car) in the Indy 500 only. Hildebrand grabbed the ninth and final spot in the shootout with a run at 230.027 mph during the final hour of the session. He finished second in the 2011 Indy 500 as a rookie.
"It's just great for the team," Hildebrand said. "Ed has done such a fantastic job getting this team elevated to this level. I'm so happy to be a part of it. I'm happy that we were actually able to make it happen there. That was way more tense than any other four laps I've ever done on the track. We're glad that we are moving into a good spot for tomorrow."
Andretti Autosport will have three of its drivers in the shootout. Carlos Munoz finished second (230.460 mph), while James Hinchcliffe was fourth (230.407 mph) and Marco Andretti sixth. (230.134 mph). Ryan Hunter-Reay will not compete for the pole, as he finished 11th.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch, driving a fifth entry for team owner Michael Andretti (No. 26 car), fell short of making the shootout after placing 10th. Busch, who is attempting to become the fourth driver to compete in the Indy 500 and the 600-mile Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day, was 12th after his first qualifying run. With an hour to go before he had to leave Indianapolis for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All- Star Race at Charlotte, Busch moved into the top-nine at 229.960 mph. He was bumped from the shootout during the final hour.
"The Andretti team has taken the steps to help me get to a comfortable place to be able to go out there," Busch said after his second attempt. "We could have camped on our 12th-place run from our earlier outing and been back out here [on Sunday]. But why not go for it? We didn't have to withdraw our time, so why not go for it and try to get into that final group. I gave my heart a run at it."
Busch will fly back to Indianapolis immediately after the all-star race concludes.
Hinchcliffe's qualifying attempt came one week after he suffered a concussion when flying debris hit him during the IndyCar road-course race at IMS. He was medically cleared to resume his driving duties on Thursday. E.J. Viso had been driving Hinchcliffe's No. 27 car in practice earlier in the week.
"It's great to be back here, obviously in a much better position than we were a week ago," Hinchcliffe said. "There was definitely some doubt and some concern earlier in the week...But we're here now. Four laps around this joint in qualifying trim, you're working for it. The car was awesome. I'm just really thrilled."
Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 winner, and Will Power, the current points leader, are in the shootout as well. Castroneves was third at 230.432 mph and Power fifth at 230.323 mph.
Simon Pagenaud from Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports and Josef Newgarden from Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing are in the shootout after finishing seventh and eighth, respectively.
Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan struggled in day 1 qualifying. Dixon, the defending IndyCar champion, placed 15th, and Kanaan, who won the Indy 500 for the first time last year, was 23rd.
Per IndyCar's new qualifying format for the Indy 500, all 33 starting positions will be determined on Sunday, which includes two groups.
Group 1, scheduled for 10:15 a.m. ET, will decide positions 10-33. All speeds from Saturday are erased and the order is reversed from that day's rankings. Group 2 is the shootout. All drivers/teams from each of the two groups will make only one four-lap qualifying attempt.
Results from Day 1 of Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 (four-lap average speeds):
1. Ed Carpenter (230.661 mph)
2. Carlos Munoz (230.460 mph)
3. Helio Castroneves (230.432 mph)
4. James Hinchcliffe (230.407 mph)
5. Will Power (230.323 mph)
6. Marco Andretti (230.134 mph)
7. Simon Pagenaud (230.070 mph)
8. Josef Newgarden (230.033 mph)
9. J.R. Hildebrand (230.027 mph)
10. Kurt Busch (229.960 mph)
11. Ryan Hunter-Reay (229.899 mph)
12. Jack Hawksworth (229.816 mph)
13. Juan Pablo Montoya (229.785 mph)
14. Justin Wilson (229.618 mph)
15. Scott Dixon (229.283 mph)
16. Mikhail Aleshin (229.091 mph)
17. Ryan Briscoe (228.825 mph)
18. Takuma Sato (228.786 mph)
19. Charlie Kimball (228.710 mph)
20. Graham Rahal (228.664 mph)
21. Sage Karam (228.650 mph)
22. Townsend Bell (228.508 mph)
23. Tony Kanaan (228.435 mph)
24. Sebastien Bourdais (228.388 mph)
25. Pippa Mann (228.358 mph)
26. Sebastian Saavedra (228.294 mph)
27. Jacques Villeneuve (228.171 mph)
28. James Davison (228.150 mph)
29. Oriol Servia (228.034 mph)
30. Carlos Huertas (227.991 mph)
31. Alex Tagliani (227.813 mph)
32. Martin Plowman (227.043 mph)
33. Buddy Lazier (226.543 mph)