Ed Carpenter continued his IZOD IndyCar Series Kentucky Speedway success by earning his first career series pole award with a two-lap 217.933-mph (48.8958 seconds) average.
The Panther Racing driver sliced his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka machine through 19 mph winds gusting to 26 mph and will make his fourth top-10 Kentucky IICS start in tomorrow’s 300-mile race.
Carpenter placed 12th in last season’s series championship by delivering one top-five and six top-10 finishes with Vision Racing and will make his third start of the 2010 campaign in the “Kentucky Indy 300.”
The Indianapolis-based wheelman earned his series career-best second-place finish in the Bluegrass State last season when he crossed the finish line .0162 of a second behind Ryan Briscoe in the closest series race the track’s 11-year history.
“It’s been an interesting day, the conditions changed a lot from this morning. Looking at all the down force levels that people came out to qualifying with, we weren’t sure what to expect. I was happy where we were. We had a good, quick car this morning. I saw my teammate Dan (Wheldon) go out a couple of cars before me and put up a pretty big number, and, at that point, I knew we had a shot,” Carpenter said.
The six-year series veteran’s previous best starts were fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway last season and Michigan International Speedway in 2006. The 10th different Kentucky Speedway IICS pole winner will share the front row with championship leader Will Power, who generated a 217.829-mph (48.9192 seconds) two-lap average in his Team Penske racecar.
Power, coming off a 16th-pace Chicagoland finish that shrank his championship lead by 36 points last week, will start in the top-three for the 10th consecutive race holding a 23-point championship lead over Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti, the two-time and defending series champion who qualified on the inside of Row 6 today with a 216.533-mph (49.2120 seconds) average.
“That was a pretty straight forward run. Actually, it was harder than normal for this track because it was a little windy out there with pretty low grip. It’s good for us to start on the front row, but I don’t think the qualifying is as important, unless you get the pole position on the mile-and-a-halves because you can pass.
“Here, it’s tougher to pass than most tracks because it’s two lanes and a bit bumpy. We need a good result on an oval this year. I think our best result on a mile-and-a-half this year is twelfth, I don’t even know. We definitely need to a least finish ahead of Dario. We have to have a strong finish to keep that points lead,” Power said.
Franchitti led the opening practice session with a 217.509-mph (24.4955 seconds) lap. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was second-quickest in the session with a 217.307-mph (24.5183 seconds) lap and Franchitti’s teammate Scott Dixon, the 2008 “Kentucky Indy 300” winner who won the last two “Kentucky Indy 300” pole awards, was third on practice chart with a 217.042-mph (24.5482 seconds) lap.
The day continues with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series “Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers” qualifying at 4:00 p.m., an IZOD IndyCar Series autograph session 4:30 p.m. in the Hospitality Village along with FIL and IICS afternoon practice sessions. The green flag will wave for the “Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers” race after 8:00 p.m.
Tickets for today’s and tomorrow’s events can be printed at home from the tickets page of www.kentuckyspedway.com or reserved at the speedway entrances.