Pagenaud drives home 18th Indy 500 pole for Team Penske

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INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud delivered Team Penske its record 18th pole position in Indianapolis 500 history with a scintillating four-lap qualifying run late Sunday afternoon to take NTT P1 Award honors in the Fast Nine Shootout.

The driver of the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet completed his attempt on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at an average speed of 229.992 mph to collect the 11th pole position of his 10-year Indy car career but first in the Indy 500. Pagenaud, who won the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course on May 11, also became the first Frenchman to win the Indianapolis 500 pole in a century – since Rene Thomas in 1919.

INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESENTED BY GAINBRIDGE: Unofficial qualifying results

Pagenaud will lead the closest field in Indianapolis 500 history to the green flag. The time separating Pagenaud’s qualifying attempt and that of slowest qualifier Pippa Mann over the four laps is 1.8932 seconds, breaking the previous mark of 2.1509 seconds in 2014.

Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter, a three-time Indy 500 pole sitter, qualified second in the No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet at 229.889 mph. Carpenter’s run was only 0.07 of a second slower than that of Pagenaud over the 10 miles.

Spencer Pigot, the fastest qualifier in Saturday’s first day of Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend, ran third best Sunday at 229.826 mph in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Along with Ed Jones qualifying fourth on Sunday, it gave the Indianapolis-based team three of the top four starters for the May 26 race.

Rookie Colton Herta repeated his stellar effort from Saturday, running fifth again on Sunday at 229.086 mph in the No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda for Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Will Power, the 2018 Indy 500 winner, rounded out the second row by qualifying sixth in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet (228.645 mph).

Sebastien Bourdais qualified seventh in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda (228.621 mph), ahead of NTT IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet (228.396 mph) and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda (228.247 mph).

Rain early in the day delayed the start of the Fast Nine Shootout nearly three hours from its scheduled start. It wiped out completely a scheduled morning practice for the fast nine drivers, forcing them to qualify without any prior track time Sunday.

The Last Row Shootout to decide the final three drivers in the 33-car field preceded the Fast Nine Shootout, and it left two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso on the outside looking in.

Alonso, returning to the Indy 500 as he bids to win the last leg of racing’s Triple Crown, was knocked from the field when Kyle Kaiser posted a four-lap qualifying run 0.019 of a mph faster.

Six drivers vied for the last three positions in the field. Alonso, the third driver to try, completed his run at an average speed of 227.353 mph in the No. 66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet. It placed the Spaniard second to James Hinchcliffe of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at the time.

When Sage Karam qualified at 227.740 mph in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet, it dropped Alonso onto the bubble as the 33rd qualifier. He remained there when Patricio O’Ward failed to go faster, leaving it up to second-year NTT IndyCar Series driver Kaiser and his small-budget Juncos Racing team.

In a backup car cobbled together after Kaiser crashed the primary No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet in practice on Friday, Kaiser ran four laps at 227.372 mph to take away the last spot.

The field of 33 has a two-hour practice scheduled for noon ET Monday that streams live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. The final practice, held traditionally on Miller Lite Carb Day, has been expanded to 90 minutes starting at 11 a.m. Friday and will be televised on NBCSN.

The 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 airs live at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 26 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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