The record book will show Ed Carpenter merely backed up his performance from Saturday's opening round of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 by speeding to the pole-position in Sunday's Fast-Nine Shootout, but it wasn't that simple.
It never is simple at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where a slight a breeze or a change in temperature by a degree or two can vastly change a driver's fortune.
The last of nine drivers to take to the 2.5-mile oval thanks to setting fast-time Saturday, Carpenter encountered a hotter track than those before him. Initially, his speed was slower and the idea Carpenter would win the Indy 500 pole for the second consecutive year seemed dubious; a spot somewhere in Row 2 more likely.
Kurt Busch preparing for double duty
There will be no busier driver over the next couple of weeks than Kurt Busch, who will be competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600.
But gradually, beginning on his third of four laps, Carpenter picked up speed. And with an impressive four-lap average of 231.067 mph -- fastest of the day -- he knocked James Hinchcliffe off the pole (230.839 mph average).
"It's awesome to do this two years in a row," Carpenter said. "I was surprised last year and didn't expect to do it this year with such deep competition. It's exciting, but after going through this last year and not winning the race I've been so much more determined. Now it's all about the race, and we want to close the deal."
Carpenter led 37 laps a year ago, but finished 10th.
For Hinchcliffe, the day was bittersweet.
A week ago the Canadian was struck in the head with a piece of debris during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, held on the road course portion of IMS. Diagnosed with a concussion, Hinchcliffe's availability was in question, and it wasn't until mid-week that doctors cleared him to drive.
"You earn your money qualifying at Indy," Hinchcliffe said. "We got a little bit loose going into Turn 3 on that last lap and had to crack the throttle and that's what killed that final lap. Without that, who knows what could have been. But at the end of the day, we're still starting second and that's an awesome place to be."
Carpenter and Hinchcliffe will share the front row with Will Power, the current Verizon IndyCar Series points leader.
Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves is fourth, followed by Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti. Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden and J.R. Hilderbrand qualified six through nine, respectively.
In his first return to Indianapolis in an IndyCar since his 2000 victory, Juan Pablo Montoya was the second fastest qualifier Sunday with a four-lap average of 231.007 mph. He will start 10th in the May 25 race. Reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon is 11th.
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NASCAR regular Kurt Busch flew back to Indianapolis on Sunday morning after competing Saturday night in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In his Indy debut, he qualified 12th.
Busch will run both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day, becoming just the fourth driver to do so.
"It was a great qualifying effort," Busch said. "It's been great all the way around. Each day has been a nice amount of progress that I've shown the team and the team was ready to give me next step and here we are. We're on Row 4 of the Indianapolis 500."
The 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan will defend his title from the 16th position.
"Like I always say, it's not where you start here at Indianapolis," Kanaan said. "I started from 12th last year and was a contender and won here, so anything is possible."