Mixed emotions for Carpenter, a look at why only VeeKay made the Fast 9 for the Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS — Ed Carpenter Racing entered qualifying for this years 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) as pole favorites. They put all three of their cars in the Fast Nine in each of the last two years.

In 2019, they took two of the three spots on the Front Row and put all three cars in the top four. In 2018, they went 1-6-7.

This year, they struggled in qualifications on Saturday.

Rinus VeeKay surprisingly was the only one steady. He went 231.789 mph on Lap 1, 231.029 mph on Lap 2, 230.888 mph on Lap 3 and 230.753 mph on Lap 4 on his initial run. That got him into the Fast Nine. That’s the fourth straight year that the No. 21 Chevrolet will be represented in the Shootout.

But, his two teammates couldn’t keep it fast enough over the course of their four laps to join him in the Shootout.

That’s why they’re out and the rookie is in.

Ed Carpenter went 231.390 mph on his first lap of his first run, which was actually quicker than his rookie driver, but fell a full mph to 230.359 mph on Lap 2. It then went 229.894 mph to 227.633 mph. On his second attempt, he went 230.734 mph, 230.300 mph, 230.233 mph and 229.582 mph. More consistent but not the big lap that his first run had which is why he’s out.

Same for Conor Daly.

“Not the day we wanted to have here,” Daly said. “After yesterday, we knew our car was a challenge to drive in the heat. The time of day where we drew to qualify was quite hot.

“I had a bit of a loose moment on the last lap, which really didn’t help the four-lap average. We went out later in the day and improved a little bit, but it was just really challenging in the heat.

“We know the U.S. Air Force Chevy is a going to be a good race car, though. Ed (Carpenter) and I are starting from the same row and we can definitely move forward from there.”

Daly, went 231.053 mph on his first lap on his first run then fell to 230.210 mph on his second lap. His third lap he got loose in Turn 3 and was just holding on from there. On his second attempt, he kind of did the same as Carpenter did without the big 231 mph first lap.

“Today was a day of mixed emotions,” said Carpenter. “I’m very happy for Rinus (VeeKay) and the ECR team for once again prepping fast cars. Chevrolet gave us great power today, and we had a chance. We gave it all we had, but at least we have one car in the Fast Nine Shootout.

“I was really hoping to have the U.S. Space Force car up there, but this is the Indy 500, and you can win from anywhere. That’s still the mission.”

Carpenter, an Indiana native, had three straight top two starting spots entering this years race. Since 2013, he’s had three Indy 500 poles and two second place starts in seven tries.

He will start 16th next Sunday.

That was their days. But, they all say that their “race” cars are good, so look for them to move up next Sunday.

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