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Indianapolis 500: Ed Carpenter tops first day of qualifying

Ed Carpenter, Carpenter, Indianapolis 500 qualifying 2014

Ed Carpenter took a step towards a second consecutive Indianapolis 500 pole after setting the top speed on Saturday's opening day of qualifying.

Carpenter was the only driver to break a 230mph average in practice on Friday, and he followed it up with a 230.661mph four-lap average 24 hours later.

His time came after he waved off an earlier 230.114mph effort, and left him optimistic about his chances of pole.

"It's just got to go like it did last year, we've got to get it right for that one run," he said.

"Everybody's got one shot at it, and I think you saw guys going faster, going slower, going faster, going slower today depending on which run they were on. Some guys moved forward, some guys moved back when they pulled out a time.

"It just comes down to the engineers and the drivers making the right decision, believing in it and going out a laying down four good ones."

2014 Indy 500 qualifying format

Joining Carpenter in the Fast Nine shootout for the first three rows on the grid will be Carlos Munoz, who qualified second last year, Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and JR Hildebrand.

Newgarden's presence in the top nine was one of the day's surprises, and the American admitted that even he had not expected to do so well.

"We definitely went for it," he said. "It wasn't quite good enough to be at the top, but somehow we snuck in. It's pretty cool - a really good job by that team. Sometimes it's just fast and you don't know why. There are little tweaks, though.

Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Indianapolis 500 qualifying 2014

"Scrubbing, I think, was a big deal today. Once we started trimming to a certain point we just started getting too much scrub. We figured out a way to limit that and I think that was the difference for us.

"It's a funny place. Sometimes you get the conditions right or just the right run, but it definitely seems to pick you. When this place wants you to be fast, it lets you be fast."

Kurt Busch was in contention for a top nine spot right up to the point that he left the track at 3pm to fly to Charlotte to prepare for the NASCAR All-Star race, but other drivers took advantage of the remaining time to improve their speeds and bump the Andretti driver down to 10th.

"I've qualified Pro Stocks on the quarter-mile; I've done the longest track on the NASCAR circuit [Talladega] but to do four laps here on a 2.5-mile track, that's a 10-mile run," he said.

"That's the longest I've had to focus for a qualifying run. Those four laps felt like one; 230 is a totally different game. I wasn't as focused as I needed to be; the moment of Indy can kind of overtake you. It was a very solid run; I was hoping for more."

Among the notable absentees from the pole battle is Ganassi, with all five of its cars falling in between 15th and 23rd-fastest.

Pos  Driver              Team/Engine      Speed
 1.  Ed Carpenter        Carpenter/Chevy  230.661
 2.  Carlos Munoz        Andretti/Honda   230.460
 3.  Helio Castroneves   Penske/Chevy     230.432
 4.  James Hinchcliffe   Andretti/Honda   230.407
 5.  Will Power          Penske/Chevy     230.323
 6.  Marco Andretti      Andretti/Honda   230.134
 7.  Simon Pagenaud      Schmidt/Honda    230.070
 8.  Josef Newgarden     Fisher/Honda     230.033
 9.  JR Hildebrand       Carpenter/Chevy  230.027
10.  Kurt Busch          Andretti/Honda   229.960
11.  Ryan Hunter-Reay    Andretti/Honda   229.899
12.  Jack Hawksworth     Herta/Honda      229.816
13.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Penske/Chevy     229.785
14.  Justin Wilson       Coyne/Honda      229.618
15.  Scott Dixon         Ganassi/Chevy    229.283
16.  Mikhail Aleshin     Schmidt/Honda    229.091
17.  Ryan Briscoe        Ganassi/Chevy    228.825
18.  Takuma Sato         Foyt/Honda       228.786
19.  Charlie Kimball     Ganassi/Chevy    228.710
20.  Graham Rahal        Rahal/Honda      228.664
21.  Sage Karam          Ganassi/Chevy    228.650
22.  Townsend Bell       KV/Chevy         228.508
23.  Tony Kanaan         Ganassi/Chevy    228.435
24.  Sebastien Bourdais  KV/Chevy         228.388
25.  Pippa Mann          Coyne/Honda      228.358
26.  Sebastian Saavedra  KV/Chevy         228.294
27.  Jacques Villeneuve  Schmidt/Honda    228.171
28.  James Davison       KV/Chevy         228.150
29.  Oriol Servia        Rahal/Honda      228.034
30.  Carlos Huertas      Coyne/Honda      227.991
31.  Alex Tagliani       Fisher/Honda     227.813
32.  Martin Plowman      Foyt/Honda       227.043
33.  Buddy Lazier        Lazier/Chevy     226.543

Speeds are average over four-lap run
All drivers use Dallara chassis
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