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IndyCar - Live blog from Pole Day

INDIANAPOLIS -- Owner-driver Carpenter takes Indy 500 pole in 'Chevy Shootout'

They brought back the old Happy Hour at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, and it helped produce the fastest pole speed in 10 years.

Ed Carpenter, the only owner-driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series and the adopted son of former Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George, stunned the Penske and Andretti megateams by claiming pole position at 228.762 mph.

Since Indiana's adjustment to daylight saving time a couple of years ago, it eliminated the fastest conditions of the day, as the track cooled into the evening. Nowadays, track temperature is often at its peak leading up to the 6 p.m. gun ending the day, before the sun goes down below the horizon created by the massive grandstands lining the pit straight on the west side of the track.

But on Pole Day, the real action didn't start until 6:30 p.m. -- the old 5:30. Sort of like the old days.

Fifty minutes later, the front of the field was set for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, with local favorite Carpenter on pole at his family's home track.

James Hinchcliffe went out first and set the benchmark at 227.070 mph, his four-lap run hindered by hitting the rev limiter as he took the green flag, resulting in a 225.760 mph first lap.

His Andretti Autosport teammate E.J. Viso upped the ante to 228.150 mph and held the top spot when Team Penske's AJ Allmendinger ran 228.099. But Marco Andretti then reclaimed the top spot for the Andretti team by finding 228.261 mph, including a 229 mph first lap.

Then came Carpenter, whose 229.347 mph opener was the fastest lap of the day to date, leading to a four-lap average of 228.762.

Four-time Indy 500 pole winner Helio Castroneves' 228.770 first lap was quick enough to best Carpenter's average, but he couldn't maintain the speed over four laps and was disappointed to have a 226 mph final tour to drop him to fifth at the time. He wound up eighth.

Rookie Carlos Munoz teased with a first lap close to 229 mph but faded to a 228.343 mph average that still resulted in an impressive starting berth of second, in the middle of the front row. Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay then continued the pattern of running a fast enough first lap to topple Carpenter but was unable to sustain the speed over four laps. He qualified seventh.

That left it to Will Power, whose struggles to adapt to oval racing have been well-documented. In this pressure-packed situation, Power came through with a 229.118 mph first lap that would have been quick enough. But Power lost nearly 2 mph over the course of the run, qualifying sixth and leaving Carpenter as the popular pole winner.

"It's a dream come true and a really great start to the month of May," Carpenter said. "But this is just the first part of what we're here to do.

"Just making what I called the 'Chevy Shootout' means a lot," he added. "I'm really proud of all my guys for all we accomplished so far."

-- John Oreovicz

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Action before Fast Nine shootout was for spots near back of the grid

INDIANAPOLIS -- True to form, the Pole Day action picked up once the clock turned to 4:30 p.m. at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But the action was more akin to Bump Day. Nobody made an assault on the front of the field, led by the 228.844 mph benchmark set by Will Power a little before 3 p.m. Instead, the drama was centered on the slow end of the field as a succession of drivers attempted to secure one of today's 24 qualifying slots.

Ryan Briscoe, James Jakes and Townsend Bell bumped their way in; Graham Rahal, Ana Beatriz, Tristan Vautier and Pippa Mann will have to come back to try to qualify Sunday, when the remainder of the 33-car field will be filled.

For Briscoe, it was a humbling return to IMS one year after he started the Indianapolis 500 from pole position for Team Penske.

With Penske unable to guarantee him a full-time IndyCar Series ride for 2013, Briscoe opted for an ALMS sports car program with Level 5 Motorsports and contesting the Indy 500 with Ganassi Racing.

Briscoe's 225.265 mph average Saturday was 1.2 mph slower than his 2012 pole speed. Last year, the Australian enjoyed the apparent advantage of a Chevrolet engine; this year he is powered by Honda.

"It seems like it's been harder just to get into the top 24 this year than it was to get the pole last year," Briscoe said.

Simona De Silvestro ended up as the day's slowest qualifier at 225.226 mph.

As the fastest driver in today's earlier qualifying session, Power will be the last of nine drivers who head back out onto the track at 6:30 p.m. for the Fast Nine shootout. The other pole contestants are defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (228.282 mph), rookie Carlos Munoz (228.171), four-time Indy pole winner Helio Castroneves (227.975), Ed Carpenter (227.952), Marco Andretti (227.893), AJ Allmendinger (227.761), E.J. Viso (227.612) and James Hinchcliffe (227.493).

"We had a good first run," said Hunter-Reay. "I have to thank my teammates James Hinchcliffe and EJ Viso for identifying an imbalance in our cars that we were able to correct.

"But Will Power put up a pretty impressive target for all of us to shoot for."

All five Andretti Autosport entries made the Fast Nine. All nine cars will feature Chevrolet power, with Alex Tagliani (227.386 mph) the fastest Honda qualifier in 11th place.

-- John Oreovicz

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Pole Day strategizing begins

INDIANAPOLIS -- The usual 2-4 p.m. lull in Indianapolis 500 Pole Day qualifying didn't happen this year.

It just started at 4, pushed back by a two and a half hour rain delay.

The timing changed, but the activity -- or lack thereof -- didn't. Qualifying played out as usual, with most of the field making one run then waiting out the rest of the afternoon.

For the drivers safely set to transfer to the Fast Nine -- which is set to start at 6:30 p.m., rather than the scheduled 4:30 -- that time could be spent in the garage with engineers, trying to figure out how to extract more speed for the evening shootout.

Those who are on the bubble -- either for making the Fast Nine or being among the 24 drivers to qualify on Pole Day -- there are decisions to be made. Should a driver who ran, say, 12th fastest in the first segment go back out and lay it all on the line in an attempt to perhaps move up 4-5 places on the grid?

Should a bumped driver like Pippa Mann or Buddy Lazier go back out and try to make it into the top 24 or just wait until Sunday's six-hour qualifying session?

With only 34 or possibly 35 entries vying for 33 grid positions, there's not going to be too much bumping. That is, assuming nobody crashes between now and 6 p.m. Sunday.

For now, the track is open for practice until 6 p.m., and then each driver in the Fast Nine will get one shot in a shootout for the pole.

The real Pole Day competition begins at 6:30.

-- John Oreovicz

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Qualifying delayed, but they should get it in

INDIANAPOLIS -- You haven't really lived until you've ridden out a rain delay at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Sometimes it seems as if wet weather is every bit as much a part of IMS tradition as bricks and the Borg-Warner Trophy.

The last time Indy 500 Pole Day was completely washed out was in 2006, but that's not likely to happen today. The rain that started Saturday in Indianapolis at 10:25 a.m. tailed off by 11 -- the scheduled start time for today's qualifying -- and cars should be on track within a couple of hours.

It's a shame the action was delayed, but having a compressed qualifying schedule this afternoon will actually help the excitement level. There won't be time for the midafternoon lull that has become a hallmark of Indianapolis qualifying days.

With the benefit of aerodynamic tows from other cars on the track, the speeds from this morning's practice session are unlikely to be repeated in single-car qualifying. Team Penske's Will Power ran a lap at 229.808 mph.

"I think we're in pretty good shape," Power said. "It's very difficult to predict what to run trimwise for qualifying. We're just working it out.

"It's pretty humid out there, but it's cool. We'll see where the temperature comes out. If it's similar to this, I think we have a good idea, but you've just got to make an educated guess."

Meanwhile, the waiting continues. As one voice down the row from me in the media center just noted, "The Red Bull is kicking in and I'm getting antsy."

-- John Oreovicz

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Morning practice cut short

INDIANAPOLIS -- Although it has been surpassed in attendance in recent years by Carb Day, Pole Day still holds a special place in the hearts of longtime Indianapolis 500 enthusiasts.

The days of setting track records are gone -- for the time being, at least -- but Indianapolis' unique four-lap qualifying format is still recognized as one of the toughest tests an Indy car driver can face.

"Of anything I've ever done, qualifying at Indianapolis is the most pressure -- but the most fun," said Indy car legend Rick Mears, who earned a record six pole positions for the 500.

"In the race, you just see what you have and then dial it from there. But if you're in the hunt in qualifying, you've got to take advantage of it. You've got four laps, and there's no doing it over. You've got to manage the fuel and the tires, all while making no mistakes. If you blow one corner, you've blown all four laps."

Even though it's a comparatively short run of just 10 miles, the drivers work hard in the cockpit, making adjustments to optimize the car's handling.

"In 2007, in qualifying, I was moving the weight jacker and the roll bars, literally between corners," said Dario Franchitti, who qualified third that year and went on to claim the first of his three Indianapolis 500 victories. "Coming out of Turn 3, move the weight jacker, move the bar … coming out of 4, move it back for Turn 1. That was a busy qualifying run. But Indy is one of those places where you can't carry the car too much. The car has to do some of the work for you. You've got to get it in the window.

"You have to be flat all the way around in qualifying to be up front," Franchitti added. "But the biggest misconception is when people say, 'It's flat. It must be easy.' Trust me, your brain wants your right foot to lift. You've got to force it down sometimes. If you get it right, you're flat, but by no means is that easy. It's right on the limit. The quicker these things go, the harder they are to drive."

Through the Saturday morning pre-qualifying practice session -- which was shortened 25 minutes because of light rain that started at 10:25 a.m. -- Indianapolis' first 230 mph lap since 2003 has still not been achieved. AJ Allmendinger, making his Indianapolis debut, led the first segment of practice with a 229.086 mph lap in his Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Will Power pulled off a 229.808 mph lap in the second session for Penske. Josef Newgarden showed Honda isn't too far off with a 228.609 mph run in his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry.

Qualifying was set to start at 11, with Scott Dixon likely to be the first driver out, but the persistent light rain has things at a standstill.

-- John Oreovicz

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