INDIANAPOLIS — Local driver Ed Carpenter has made himself at home on the Indianapolis 500 pole.
The last of nine qualifiers to take the track in Sunday's "Fast Nine" format, 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 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"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."
The Indianapolis native showed no signs of rust in his first IndyCar race this season. He owns Ed Carpenter Racing and decided in November to run only on ovals, where he excels. He turned his No. 20 Chevrolet over to Mike Conway on road and street courses, and skipped the first four races. The move paid off, as Conway won at Long Beach, the team's first nonoval win.
Hinchcliffe will start second after sustaining a concussion last weekend in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, last week's race which used the Brickyard's infield road course. Will Power will join them on the front row for Sunday's race.
Three-time Indy 500 champ 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, 33, the stepson of former IMS executive Tony George, was 10th in last year's 500. He is 11th driver to earn consecutive 500 poles and the first since Castroneves in 2009-10.
"It's all about the race," Carpenter said. "Hopefully, we can close the deal this year."
As a single-car team last year, Carpenter was unable to get help on data and much-needed setup information. He didn't want a repeat this May, so he hired Hildebrand to drive a second car at Indy for ECR.
"I wish we could have got him up on the front row with us, but the shootout's tough," Carpenter said. "The conditions were hard today, but having him go first today also helped me because we were able to make an adjustment."
This is the debut of a new qualifying format. The fastest nine drivers in Saturday's qualifying advanced to Sunday's shootout for the pole.
Juan Montoya had the fastest four-lap average (231.007 mph) among drivers ineligible to win the pole and will start 10th.
NASCAR's Kurt Busch, who will try "the double" (Indy and the Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 on the same day), will line up 12th (230.782 mph). St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais (229.847) starts 17th.
For the first time, IndyCar awarded points for Indy qualifying. Carpenter got the maximum 42 — 33 for Saturday's top speed and nine for earning the pole. That's nearly as many points as victories are worth at nonoval races (50, plus at least one point for leading a lap).