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Carpenter Hammers Out Best 500 Qualifying Lap

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 20 2017

Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter led the field in the first day of qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Indianapolis native and oval-track specialist Ed Carpenter led Day 1 qualifying Saturday for next weekend’s 101st Indianapolis 500, capping a scary-fast session of time trials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Carpenter, who won Indy 500 poles in 2013 and 2014, posted a four-lap/10-mile average of 230.468 mph around the 2.5-mile oval in his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Carpenter’s run came late in the session and knocked Takuma Sato from the top of the time sheet. The open-wheel veteran from Japan had posted a four-lap average of 230.382 mph in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.

“It feels like 2013 now _ I wasn’t expecting that,” said the 36-year-old Carpenter, only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. “I thought I could run a 230, but not four of them. Thanks to Chevrolet for giving me a good bullet and for making the best aero out here right now. I don’t know if we have much left. With my two previous poles, I wasn’t the fastest car but we had the best car over four laps.”

Carpenter and Sato will be joined in Sunday’s pole-determining Fast Nine qualifying session for the Verizon P1 Award by 2008 Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, second-quickest at 230.333 mph; J.R. Hildebrand (230.205) of Ed Carpenter Racing; reigning Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi (230.148) of Andretti Autosport; 2014 series champion Will Power (230.072) of Team Penske; two-time Formula One World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso (230.034) of Andretti Autosport; 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan (230.007) of Chip Ganassi Racing and Marco Andretti (229.924) of Andretti Autosport.

“We’re happy with our time and we’re pleased with the laps we ran,” said Dixon, a four-time series champion and driver of the No. 9 Honda. “Doing the best we can on Sunday is what really matters.”

Six of the nine fastest qualifiers are using Honda’s 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 powerplant.

The session was marked by a horrific moment about an hour and a-half into hot-lapping. Four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais, who laid down the fastest lap of practice and the week Friday at 233.116 mph, lost control of his No. 18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing Honda and slammed the wall exiting Turn 2.

The rear end of Bourdais’ car wiggled, and his attempt at correcting its trajectory sent it into the wall nearly head-on. The car burst into flames, went sideways down the track before flipping onto its top, shearing off the right side of the Dallara-built Safety Tub. The car landed on its wheels, with Bourdais showing slight movement in the cockpit. Bourdais eventually was extricated from the wreckage by the Holmatro Safety Team, placed on a backboard and driven to IU Methodist Hospital complaining of hip and lower-body pain.

Bourdais, a 38-year-old native of Le Mans, France, was diagnosed at the hospital with multiple fractures to his pelvis and a fracture to his right hip. Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR medical director, said Bourdais was scheduled to undergo surgery on his pelvis.

“Sebastien is in good hands here at IU Methodist Hospital with the staff and now we just wait for him to recover,” team-owner Dale Coyne said in a statement.

On Sunday, the following update was released: “Bourdais underwent successful surgery Saturday night for pelvic injuries he sustained while attempting to qualify for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The Dale Coyne Racing driver sustained multiple fractures to his pelvis and a fracture to his right hip in the incident Saturday. ‘Surgery went well,’ Billows said. ‘I’ve met with Sebastien this morning and he was doing even better than I expected.’ ”

Bourdais, who won the season-opening street race in St. Petersburg, Fla., appeared to be headed for P1 after putting down two laps that were a mile per hour faster than then-pole-holder Dixon.

Bourdais won four consecutive championships (2004-07) while competing in the Champ Car World Series, and remains the only Indy car driver to have captured four titles in a row. Bourdais ranks sixth all-time in Indy car history with 36 victories. However, Bourdais never has qualified or finished better than seventh in six previous Indianapolis 500 starts. Bourdais likely will watch next Sunday’s race from a hospital bed _ a point not lost on IMS rookie Alonso.

“The narrative is often that it’s the four most nerve-wracking laps for a driver in motorsports,” said Alonso, driver of the No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda. “It’s definitely a very unique place. We are here two weeks. You’re not going to repeat two laps the same because always the conditions, they keep changing. And that’s amazing from a driver point of view to have that feeling with the circuit that you have to drive the car always; always it will be tricky. In (Turn) 1 or 3 or 4, always you will fight the challenge.”

Alonso, who drives for McLaren F1 in the FIA World Championship, is skipping the famed Monaco Grand Prix to compete at IMS. The 35-year-old Spaniard now has a legitimate shot at qualifying on-pole for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and the second leg of a Triple Crown quest including the F1 Monaco GP (which he has won twice), the Indy 500 and endurance sports car racing’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Definitely, very happy,” said Alonso, who logged his first oval-track laps anywhere here on May 3. “Tomorrow I think we will be much quicker than today. But anyway, it has been a fantastic week of running, a fantastic week of different experiences, running alone, high boost, low boost; every lap feels different. Today we only had one attempt because of the weather, so that creates stress in everybody. But as I said, I think there will be more speed to come, hopefully.

“The first lap May 3rd here; I mean, everything was strange for me. The car _ how it turns in the corner, how it rotates in the corner was a little bit strange. But now I feel confident with the team. We are a six-car team, so we have a lot of information that we share. All the teammates, they have been a big help for me in terms of setup with the car and also running in traffic. We’ve been running a lot together, and that’s really a huge help for me.”

Bourdais’ crash brought a long halt to the session as track workers cleared the debris field and repaired the SAFER BARRIER. That may have ended up helping Carpenter and others who went out for their runs on a cooling track surface.

Qualifications were scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (ET) but were placed on an indefinite delay as heavy rain rolled through Indianapolis. Skies cleared around 2 p.m. with the track opening for qualifying at 4 p.m. Because of the abbreviated schedule, multiple attempts were not permitted and each entry received only one guaranteed qualifying attempt. 

Carpenter was the 29th of 33 cars to qualify after Friday night’s blind draw set the order. With the delays, Carpenter did not hit the track until 6:35 p.m. With cooler conditions and cloud cover working in his favor, his first lap of 230.672 miles per hour rocketed to the top of the time chart. Laps followed of 230.670, 230.278 and 230.254 for a four-lap average of 230.468 mph.  

With only four cars left to qualify behind Carpenter, Hildebrand became his team-owner’s biggest challenger for the top spot. Hildebrand’s No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet was tracking first after his opening lap of 230.834 mph, but dropped off slightly. His four-lap average of 230.205 mph was fourth-fastest.

Times from Saturday will be erased going into Sunday’s Day 2 qualifications. Drivers in the Fast Nine Shootout must make one four-lap attempt, in order based on slowest-to-fastest from Saturday’s qualifying time. Carpenter will be the final driver to make a run at the pole.

The first 75 minutes of Pole Day will be carried live on WatchESPN, beginning at 2:45 p.m. (ET). ABC will begin its live broadcast at 4 p.m. with continuing coverage on Watch ESPN. 

The 101st Indy 500, sixth race of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, will be run May 28 with live coverage commencing at 11 a.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Results of first-day qualifying Saturday for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit- engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:36.2036 (230.468)
2. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:36.2621 (230.382)
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:36.2953 (230.333)
4. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:36.3822 (230.205)
5. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:36.4208 (230.148)
6. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:36.4727 (230.072)
7. (29) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 02:36.4985 (230.034)
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:36.5170 (230.007)
9. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.5737 (229.924)
10. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 02:36.7147 (229.717)
11. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 02:36.7173 (229.713)
12. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 02:36.7700 (229.636)
13. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:36.8405 (229.533)
14. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:36.9382 (229.390)
15. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 02:37.0562 (229.217)
16. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:37.3183 (228.835)
17. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:37.4139 (228.696)
18. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:37.4495 (228.645)
19. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:37.5097 (228.557)
20. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:37.6232 (228.393)
21. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:37.9342 (227.943)
22. (77) Jay Howard, Honda, 02:37.9965 (227.853)
23. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 02:38.2850 (227.438)
24. (16) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:38.4856 (227.150)
25. (50) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:38.6641 (226.894)
26. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 02:38.6779 (226.875)
27. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:39.3539 (225.912)
28. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:39.4225 (225.815)
29. (11) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 02:40.9798 (223.631)
30. (44) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 02:42.5820 (221.427)
31. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:44.1724 (219.282)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 20 2017
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