Ed Carpenter Racing flexes muscle in Indy 500 qualifying

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INDIANAPOLIS – Its drivers didn’t win the pole position Sunday, but Ed Carpenter Racing is in superb shape for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Simon Pagenaud’s four-lap average was enough to knock Ed Carpenter from the No. 1 position, but Carpenter’s team – which also includes drivers Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones – secured the second, third and fourth positions on the grid for the start of the race May 26. (The ECR drivers are shown in the photo above, from left to right, Carpenter, Pigot and Jones.)

Carpenter, who has won the Indy 500 pole position three times, including last year, was the third driver on track during Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout. He posted a four-lap average of 229.889 mph in the No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet, good for the provisional pole.

That withstood challenges from Jones, Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden before Pagenaud recorded a four-lap average of 229.992 mph in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet. Pigot, the final qualifier, couldn’t top Pagenaud’s effort, but ECR clinched second with Carpenter, third with Pigot (229.826 mph) and fourth with Jones (229.646 mph).

“First and foremost, the strength of the team is what I'm most excited about,” Carpenter said. “To have Ed Carpenter Racing cars starting second, third and fourth just speaks volumes to the organization and all our people and effort that they put into building our cars, and the consistency of all the equipment is something I'm really personally proud of.”

Pigot had the fastest four-lap average in Saturday’s first round of qualifying – 230.083 mph – which would have held up for the pole position had Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout been rained out. After a rain delay of more than four hours, though, the shootout was completed.

Carpenter joked that Pigot had been doing a rain dance in the team’s garage during the delay, but Pigot said he wanted to settle it on the track.

“As race car drivers, we love driving Indy cars at the limit, and you definitely get a chance to do that here in qualifying,” Pigot said. “Any chance we get to put four laps of qualifying together here is exciting in the car. Unfortunately, it was a little short, but (it was a) great day for the team.”

Carpenter moved from a full-time driving role to an ovals-only role in 2014. He finished second in the Indy 500 last year behind Will Power and indicated again Sunday that his primary goal is to win the race.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Hey, are you going to win the pole again this year?’” Carpenter said. “It's like, ‘Well, that would be nice, but I really want to win the race.’ That's the goal. I don't want people to think all I come to do here is qualify because that's definitely not the focus. And that's why I'm so proud of the team because I really think that obviously we have to go out and do a good job and put in four good laps, but the speed comes from the work the team does and the preparation, especially to have all of our cars so close.”

ECR, along with Team Penske – which put three of its four entries among the top eight – appears to be the fastest of the 33-car field. Carpenter’s team has been fast from the start of Tuesday’s practice, leading to high hopes for the race.

“All of us were pretty happy with our race cars Wednesday and Thursday,” Pigot said. “So we have a lot to look forward to and a lot to be confident about heading into next weekend.”

The 33 cars in the field have a final practice scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Friday on Miller Lite Carb Day. The session airs live on NBCSN. NBC’s live coverage of the 200-lap race is set to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.

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