Ed Carpenter Gets The Job Done
So…what do Ed Carpenter and Pat O’Connor have in common? They are the last two native Hoosiers to win the Pole Position for the Indianapolis 500. Ed Carpenter did it today. Pat O’Connor did it in 1957. Until today, it had been fifty-six years since the last son of Indiana won the pole. Contrarians will point out that Hoosier Tony Stewart was on the pole for 1996. That’s true, but he didn’t win it. He started from the pole after pole-winner Scott Brayton was fatally injured in a Week Two practice crash.
Pat O’Connor was a very popular driver during his tenure at The Speedway. In fact, he may have been the most popular in the field when he won the pole. He was a local that had endeared himself to the fans. Sound familiar?
This past Wednesday I wrote a post that asked the question; “Can Ed Carpenter Win The Indianapolis 500?”. Many responded that they were puling for him, but I’m not sure how many thought he was capable of the feat – given the size of his budget and the fact that they were a one-car team. Well wonder no more. Winning the pole is not winning the race, but this was no fluke. Ed Carpenter put together the four most consistent laps of anyone in the Fast-Nine. In the end, it wasn’t even close. Ed Carpenter’s four-lap average of 228.762 mph was almost a half a mile an hour faster than Carlos Muñoz, who will start next to him in the middle of the second row. Marco Andretti will round out the front row. Marco’s presence has two American drivers filling the front-row – for those that consider that important. I’m not sure of the last time that’s happened, but I’ll bet it’s been a while. The last time an American was on the pole was when Sam Hornish won it in 2006. He went on to win the race that year.
I cannot over-emphasize how big this is here locally. Ed Carpenter is the prototypical Hoosier – understated, not too flashy, but gets the job done. Race fans and non-race fans that live in the Indianapolis area can get behind this. It should drum up a lot of local support for the race in the coming week.
For those of us that don’t live in the area – we can get behind this too. We’ve followed Ed’s career from his meager days with Eddie Cheever through the Vision Racing days and then when he drove only a handful of races for Panther and Sarah Fisher for a couple of years before starting his own team last year. Being an owner-driver is a rare thing these days, but Ed is a throwback. I guess most casual fans never read this site, but if you have no favorite for next Sunday’s race – Ed would be a good one to choose. This is a feel-good story out of a movie script. The only thing that would put it completely over the top would be for him to pull off a victory next Sunday. Sound impossible? Think again.
In the meantime, there is still more qualifying ahead. There are still ten drivers trying to squeeze into nine spots tomorrow. I saw Pippa Mann in the garage area just before her second run. I tried to catch her eye, but wshe was intently staring down and looked like she meant business. And for good reason – the third Dale Coyne car performed about like I expected it to. That means it didn’t perform. Her second time out, Pippa turned better laps, but she has to wait until tomorrow to find out exactly where she’ll start. You never know for sure, but there are still several cars out there slower than hers – and she only has to beat one. Still, I know she’s frustrated tonight and will be relieved when she finally makes it tomorrow.
Probably the most frustrated driver is Josef Newgarden. He got bumped out of the Top-24 late in the day. He was next in line behind Michel Jourdain, Jr., who had been painfully slow all month. Jourdain was toiling around in the 215 range as the gun went off. There would not have been time for Newgarden to get out on-track even if Jourdain had pulled off after his first lap, but Newgarden looked none-too-happy as he walked back from the pits.
The big question for tomorrow is; who won’t make it? Michel Jourdain, Jr. is struggling as are all of the Rahal cars. Ana Biatriz has been very unspectacular. Buddy Lazier has a good looking car and a Chevy engine, but is operating on a shoestring. Katherine Legge hasn’t been in a car since September. Her first time in the Sam Schmidt car is tomorrow morning. That’s a tall order to get a car up to speed for the best of drivers, much less a second-year driver with a spotty record on ovals. I think it’ll come down to Buddy Lazier and Katherine Legge and when it’s all said and done, I’m thiking it’s Katherine Legge that’s watching from the stands next Sunday. It should be interesting to see how it all plays out tomorrow. This is really shaping up to be an intriguing race.
Check back tomorrow and thanks for following all through the weekend.