By Ken de la Bastide
CNHI News Service
It was a case of David versus Goliath, and once again David won as Ed Carpenter captured the pole position for next Sunday’s running of the Indianapolis 500.
Carpenter bested eight drivers for the two teams expected to compete for the pole position on Saturday.
Carpenter, driving for his own team, posted the fifth-quickest time of the day during the regular qualifying session. He then turned the fastest lap of the “fast nine” session at 229.347 miles per hour and a four-lap average of 228.762 mph.
He will be joined on the front row by rookie Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti of the Andretti Autosport team.
Penske Racing driver Will Power was quickest earlier in the day but faded after turning an opening lap of 229.119 and will start sixth next Sunday.
During the opening segment of qualifying, which was delayed by a rain shower, Penske Racing and Andretti Autosport claimed eight of the nine positions in the fast nine for the pole run.
The surprise was Carpenter, who won the last IZOD IndyCar Series race on an oval last year in California.
Power led the way for Penske Racing with two laps over 229 miles per hour and a four-lap average of 228.884 mph.
“I was surprised at the first lap,” Power said. “I used the entire track and tried not to scrape off any speed.”
He was followed by Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Munoz.
It was a disappointing day for the Target/Ganassi Racing team which includes defending race winner Dario Franchitti. Franchitti qualified 17th, and teammate Scott Dixon posted the 16th-best time.
The third driver in the team, Ryan Briscoe, turned a four-lap average of 225.265 mph on his final qualifying attempt to lock into the starting field. Last year Briscoe started from the pole position when he was driving for Penske Racing.
Qualifying was dominated by the American muscle of Chevrolet, which took the top 10 starting positions. The best Honda-powered car was driven by Alex Tagliani at 11th on the grid.
The drama that unfolded before the fast nine session was the battle between Rahal/Letterman teammates Graham Rahal and James Jakes.
Jakes bumped Rahal from the locked-in 24 fastest drivers with a four-lap average speed of 225.153 mph as compared to Rahal’s 225.139 mph.
Rahal went out to make a second attempt to make the field but couldn’t find the speed to bump Jakes from the field.
After making two attempts, the team decided to qualify today.
In a risky move, Townsend Bell withdrew the 20th-fastest time in hopes of improving his position but failed to crack the top 24.
Bell used his final attempt to reclaim the 20th spot with a speed of 225.643 mph, which bumped Jakes from the field.
Jakes went out immediately and remade the field with an average of 225.809 mph, which was quick enough to bump Josef Newgarden from the field.