Saturday marked day one of Indianapolis 500 qualifying where the nine drivers that will have a chance at the pole Sunday were determined and also where all 33 drivers would earn championship points. When the day-long session ended just prior to 6 p.m. ET it was last year's Indy 500 pole sitter Ed Carpenter who turned the fastest 4-lap average speed of 230.611 mph to take the top spot on Saturday and earn 33 championship points for his Ed Carpenter Racing No. 20 Fuzzy's team.
Joining Carpenter in the Fast-Nine Shootout by qualifying second through ninth Saturday and earning 32 to 25 points were Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport, Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport, Will Power of Team Penske, Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport, Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and JR Hildebrand of Ed Carpenter Racing. Those nine drivers all averaged over 230 mph.
The new qualifying format provided great drama especially in the final one and a half hours after there was a one hour and 10 minute rain delay. Teams scrambled to make the Fast-Nine Shootout.
The first car out on the track after the rain delay was James Hinchcliffe, who was 11th fastest, and he took over the top spot with an average of 230.407 mph. Then Carlos Munoz, who was 14th, took a run and went fastest at 230.460 mph. Then Helio Castroneves, who at the time was tenth, turned in a 230.432 to move into second place. Ed Carpenter then took to the track with already the fifth fastest time and turned in an amazing 230.611 mph 4-lap average with one hour left in the session to grab the top position from Munoz.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who was sitting 11th, went out and moved to ninth which knocked Kurt Busch from the Fast-Nine Shootout. Busch would not be able to try to get back in because he left to head to Charlotte Motor Speedway to compete in tonight's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
Marco Andretti, who was outside the top nine, withdrew his time which allowed him to move to the head of the line to take another run. He went sixth fastest and knocked Montoya out. Montoya then withdrew his time and went back out but slowed down on his fourth attempt of the day and turned in what was then the 12th fastest time.
With only a few minutes left Josef Newgarden withdrew his time which was outside the top nine and made a run which landed him with a 230.033 mph and in eighth. That run knocked Ryan Hunter-Reay to tenth so his team withdrew their time to go out before the final gun. Hunter-Reay was unable to go faster and actually dropped to 11th behind Kurt Busch's time. The final driver out was rookie James Davison and he was not a threat to make the Fast-Nine Shootout.
Not making the Fast-Nine Shootout on Sunday but still earning between 24 and 1 championship point were the rest of the drivers. Kurt Busch was tenth, Ryan Hunter-Reay 11th, Jack Hawksworth 12th, Juan Pablo Montoya 13th, Justin Wilson 14th, and Scott Dixon 15th was the fastest of the Chip Ganassi Racing stable that were disappointing in qualifying. Mikhail Aleshin was 16th, Ryan Briscoe 17th, Takuma Sato 18th, Charlie Kimball 19th, and Graham Rahal 20th. Sage Karam was 21st, Townsend Bell 22nd, Tony Kanaan 23rd, Sebastien Bourdais 24th, Pippa Mann 25th, Sebastian Saavedra 26th, Jacques Villeneuve 27th, James Davison 28th, Oriol Servia 29th, Carlos Huertas 30th, Alex Tagliani 31st, Martin Plowman 32nd, and Buddy Lazier 33rd.
Will Power held a one point lead on Ryan Hunter-Reay heading into Saturday and Simon Pagenaud was six point back in third. Now Power has 178 total points and Hunter-Reay has 171 in second. With 170 points in third is Pagenaud.
On Sunday all 33 drivers, who will all race in the Indy 500, will take another 4-lap run around Indianapolis Motor Speedway to determine their starting position for the following Sunday's 98th running of the Indianapolis 500. Coverage of the cars vying for starting positions 10 to 33 can be seen from 10 a.m. to noon ET on WatchESPN and then coverage will continue at 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET on ABC including the Fast-Nine Shootout which will determine the pole position.Tags: Andretti Autosport, Carlos Munoz, ed carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing, Helio Castroneves, indianapolis 500, indianapolis motor speedway, indy 500, Josef Newgarden, JR Hildebrand, Kurt Busch, Marco Andretti, Motorsports, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power