(Reuters) – Hometown favorite Ed Carpenter won pole for next week’s Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, topping 230 miles per hour to help restrict Danica Patrick to a third-row start for the final race of her career.
Carpenter, a local resident and the penultimate qualifier, averaged 229.618 mph for four laps to claim the third pole of his career, holding off the powerful Penske team of Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden.
“That first lap blew my mind,” said Carpenter after he hit 230 mph (370 kilometers per hour) on his opening run to huge cheers from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway crowd.
He was the only driver to top 230 in any of their four qualifying laps.
Frenchman Pagenaud (228.761) and Power (228.607) will join Carpenter on the front row for the May 27 race with Newgarden (228.405) on the second row.
Patrick (228.090) will lead off the third row in seventh place with Brazil’s three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who had the fastest average speed on Saturday, beside her.
“It’s all good and I am glad that part is over with,” Patrick, who is retiring, told ABC television. “Now it is time for 500 fun miles.”
Carpenter, who owns the team for whom Patrick drives, also started on pole in 2013-14 but has never won the famed Brickyard race.
“It means everything to me to put us in a position like this,” he said.
“It is always nice to start up front because you can control things a little bit,” added the 37-year-old, who grew up in Indianapolis.
“It certainly feels good knowing I got clean air in front of me as long as I get a good start. Of all the pole runs I’ve had here this one, believe it or not came the easiest.”
Carpenter, whose best Indy 500 result came in 2008 when he placed fifth, had shown his car’s potential on Saturday when he came on strong to finish second fastest in qualifying runs.
Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, who missed last year’s race after a horrific crash while fighting for pole, showed no fear as he returned to the Brickyard, grabbing fifth place (228.142).
The former Formula One driver said the crash impacted his run on Sunday.
“It was probably the hardest weekend we have had to go through. It was hard, really hard,” he said.
“I had a little moment there in (turn) one, I didn’t trust it, got my foot off it a bit and it showed big time on the speed.
“What happened last year you can’t just disregard. I probably would have stayed in it pretty easily last year but thought twice about it this year for sure.”
Reigning champion Takuma Sato of Japan will start on the sixth row after posting an average speed of 226.557 in a Honda.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Clare Fallon/Nick Mulvenney)