Ed Carpenter is on the pole for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.
The native of Marshall, Ill., earned the No. 1 spot for the May 26 race with a strong run in the Fast Nine competition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday. He is the first American driver on the pole since 2006.
Carpenter is joined on the front row by Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti, both from Andretti Autosport.
On the second row are E.J. Viso, A.J. Allmendinger and Will Power while Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe are on the third row. All are in Chevrolets.
Carpenter qualified fifth in the first phase of qualifying — the only driver not from the Team Penske or Andretti Autosport teams in the Top Nine. Power was on the pole after the initial qualifying in which 24 spots were filled for the race.
“It is a great honor to be on the pole. We need to stay focused for race day,” said Carpenter.
“We felt pretty good about our speed all week. We have not been getting big tows. We wanted to be good today and Race Day,” said the 32-year-old driver who has been racing since eight years of age.
Carpenter has been competing in the Izod IndyCar Series since 2003 and had won one other pole and won two races in that time. His best starting spot in the 500 was eighth but he has finished eighth and fifth in the race.
His four-lap qualifying average in the first phase that had been delayed by rain was 227.952 miles per hour.
He was fifth in the Fast Nine starting schedule and started strong with a 229.347 lap — the fastest in the Fast Nine laps. He followed that with 228.926, 228.774 and 227.955 averages for his top average of 228.762.
Carpenter is a graduate of Butler University and has the school’s logo and mascot on his No. 20 car — it is the first time for a No. 20 car to be on the pole. He has headed Ed Carpenter Racing for two years and is the first owner-driver to be pole sitter since A.J. Foyt did it in 1975.
Rain delayed the start of qualifying for more than two hours and the time schedule was changed, pushing action beyond the normal closing time of 6 p.m. at IMS.
Scott Dixon was first to make a qualifying attempt. He said conditions were good and his car and balance were okay.
He said he could make another attempt later in the day but said team efforts will focus on race. “Dario [Franchitti] and I did not qualify in the top 15 last year and we were strong in the race,” said Dixon.
Franchitti, of course, won the race.
Dixon will start 16th and Franchittti 17th in the race. Ryan Briscoe, the 2012 pole sitter, is in the 23rd slot.
Allmendinger made his first qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500 in a Team Penske car after competing in Champ Car and NASCAR Sprint Cup events.
“It’s pretty special to have this opportunity after watching qualifying and the race and not being able to do it. I held my breath the last lap and a half. The car was starting to get loose,” he said.
When all cars had made their first attempt, Power, Reay and Munoz were on the front row with Castroneves, Carpenter and Andretti in the second row.
Some drivers were bumped after 24 spots had been filled including 2012 pole sitter Briscoe. Briscoe made two more runs and made it back in on the third attempt.
James Jake’s first run was disallowed when his car failed technical inspection. He qualified 24th on his second run, bumping Graham Rahal.
Power gave a hint of things to come when he was fastest in practice with a hot lap of 229.808. Allmendinger was second, followed by Josef Newgarden, Rahal and Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud celebrated his 29th birthday.
The final nine spots in the race field will be filled today in qualifying starting at noon. Since a 34th car has been added to the field with Kathryn Legge as the driver, bumping could ensue once the 33 spots are filled.