INDIANAPOLIS — Local driver Ed Carpenter has made himself at home on the Indianapolis 500 pole.
The last of nine qualifiers to take the track, Carpenter bumped James Hinchcliffe from the top spot, posting a four-lap average of 231.067 mph to win the 500 pole for the second straight year.
“I felt that it was harder,” Carpenter said. “It was just a different position because when I made my run last year, we didn’t really have anything to lose.
“This year, being the last guy to go out, I think there was a little bit of pressure to not mess it up.”
He didn’t mess it up.
Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet was the car to beat all weekend, and the hometown favorite showed no signs of rust in his first IndyCar Series race of the season.
He owns Ed Carpenter Racing and decided in November to run only on ovals, where he excels. He turned his car over to Mike Conway on road and street courses, and skipped the first four races of the season.
He knew he had the pole secured when he nailed the final two corners on the last lap.
“I could really just kind of enjoy it knowing that we were going to be on the pole for the second year,” he said.
Hinchcliffe will start second after sustaining a concussion last weekend in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Will Power will join them on the front row.
Three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves was fourth followed by Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti. Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden and J.R. Hildebrand will be on the third row.
Carpenter, the stepson of former speedway executive Tony George, was 10th in last year’s Indy 500. He is 11th driver to earn consecutive 500 poles and the first since Castroneves in 2009-10.
“It’s all about the race,” the 33-year-old Carpenter said. “Hopefully, we can close the deal this year.”
Hornish win Nationwide race in Iowa: In Newton, Iowa, Sam Hornish Jr. went from nearly winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series season title to losing his ride.
Hornish reminded everyone Sunday that a lack of sponsorship funding is the only reason he’s not pushing for the champion again.
Hornish Jr., who finished second in the Nationwide Series in 2013, beat pole-winner Ryan Blaney off a restart with 21 laps to go and hung on to win at Iowa Speedway.
Blaney was second, followed by Regan Smith, Chase Elliott and Elliott Sadler in the first stand-alone event of the season.
Hornish, piloting the No. 54 car usually driven by Kyle Busch, led 167 of 250 laps to win in second start of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I got a lot of crap from people on Twitter wanting to know why I don’t have a full-time ride. But I’d rather be part-time in this car than full-time in a lot of others,” Hornish said.
Hornish, who drove for Penske Racing last year, opened his season as Busch’s substitute with a fifth-place finish at Talladega two weeks ago.
From the start of Sunday’s race, Hornish and Blaney were the only drivers in serious contention.
The 20-year-old Blaney began the race on the outside of the front row after winning his first series pole Saturday. But Hornish, who qualified second, pulled in front on the opening lap. Blaney and Hornish were the only leaders for the first 214 laps, and lapped traffic was often more of a concern that the cars directly behind them.
Blaney eventually caught Hornish at the tail end of a green flag run that lasted roughly 65 laps. But the final restart belonged to Hornish, who fell just three points shy of champion Austin Dillon a year ago.
“We had great long run speed after about 50 laps or so,” Blaney said. “We just didn’t have the new tire speed we needed.”
Three-time champion Brabham dies: In Brisbane, Australia, three-time Formula 1 champion Jack Brabham, who famously pushed his racing car to the finish line to claim his first season championship, died Monday at his Gold Coast home. He was 88.
Brabham won world titles in 1959 and 1960 and became the only F1 driver to win a world championship in a car of his own construction — the rear-engine BT19 — which he drove to the title in 1966.