On Sunday, May 18, the starting grid was set for the ninety-eighth running of the Indianapolis 500, as 33 drivers took to the two and a half mile oval that is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second and final day of qualifying for the historic race. Though all the positions were set for the field, the focus fell on the top nine speeds from the Saturday session, as those drivers were given the chance to race for the pole position in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
Ed Carpenter won the Indianapolis 500 Pole for the second year in a row, turning a four-lap average speed of 231.067 mph. James Hinchcliffe and Will Power will join Carpenter on the front row.
"I have to say congratulations to Ed Carpenter and his team," Simon Pagenaud said. "I think that's pretty amazing that he was able to turn four laps with an average of 231 mph. That shows the engine manufacturer war between Honda and Chevrolet is really heating up. I also think the Verizon IndyCar Series has come up with a very exciting new qualifying format for the Indy 500. The past two days have been thrilling, emotional and intense all at the same time."
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver will start from the middle of Row Two in the 98th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25 after posting the fifth quickest qualifying speed of 230.614 mph in the No. 77 Lucas Oil Dallara/Honda/Firestone car during the Fast Nine Shootout.
"Qualifying in Indy is the most nerve wracking thing I've ever done," Pagenaud added. "We're obviously running as little downforce as we can to go fast, so the car is difficult to handle in the corners. I have to thank my crew for doing such a good job."
Pagenaud was also celebrating his 30th birthday Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Winning the coveted Indianapolis 500 pole would have been an ideal birthday present, but starting a career-best fifth in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing was also rewarding.
"We're fifth on the grid of the Indianapolis 500, which is a great place to start from," Pagenaud continued. "I'd love to get the pole here one day, and I think we'll get there eventually."
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) driver Josef Newgarden will start eighth on the grid Sunday, May 25 after turning a four-lap average of 229.893 mph to position the No. 67 SFHR Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in the middle of the third row.
"We had a great day today," Newgarden said. "It started off well with just being in the Fast Nine Shootout, which was a big achievement for us from Saturday. We didn't quite have enough for Pole position but we gave it everything we had, and I'm super proud of everyone at SFHR for doing that. It's always good to start this race in clean air."
Newgarden hit over 230 mph in the first three laps of his four-lap qualifying run, before losing speed in his final lap.
"We really hung it out and gave it everything we had, but it got a little tough in that last lap," Newgarden said. "I thought I was going to end up in the wall for a minute, but we were able to keep it on track and finish off the four-lap run. That's how Indy qualifying should be. You should lay it all out there and give it everything you have, and that's what we did."
His teammate Alex Tagliani re-qualified the No. 68 SFHR Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry on Sunday morning with a four lap average speed of 229.148 mph and will start 24th in the 500-mile race on the 2.5-mile oval.
"There is some more speed in our car, we know that," Tagliani said. "But now that qualifying is over, we will switch our gear to race mode and make sure our car is good during the race and in traffic. I want to say thanks to the boys at SFHR. They did a good job finding more speed from yesterday to today. The only thing that matters now is the race and coming up with a good plan for how we can put both of our cars up front."
Rookie Mikhail Aleshin will start 15th in his first Indianapolis 500. The Russian driver posted a four-lap average speed of 230.049 mph on the 2.5-mile oval.
"It was a really hard four laps for me," Aleshin said. "The team did a great job of preparing the car to put it right on the limit, but that makes it very challenging for the driver. That's what qualifying a car is all about, though. There were two times when I thought I was going to lose it, but at the same time I wasn't going to lift from the throttle."
Jacques Villeneuve will start his third Indianapolis 500 on the outside of the ninth row in 27th. The 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner turned four laps with an average speed of 228.949 mph.
"We were happy this morning in practice, but we lost a mile an hour in qualifying," Villeneuve said. "We're focusing on the race though, so we'll be in good shape next weekend. Some people think I'm crazy to come back, but I'm a racer at heart and I'm happy to be back in the most important race in the world."
The 33 cars qualified for the Indianapolis 500 field have additional practice time from noon-5 p.m. (ET) on Monday, May 19.