INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Ed Carpenter, Carlos Munoz and Helio Castroneves were pushed to the edge Saturday, each remained calm and came up with their best-qualifying runs of the day.
Now they have to do it again one more time Sunday.
The American, Colombian and Brazilian who have celebrated some of their biggest career moments at Indianapolis each made daring runs over the final 80 minutes Saturday to take the top three seeds heading into Sunday's Indianapolis 500 shootout. Carpenter finished first with a four-lap qualifying average of 230.661 mph. Munoz was second at 230.460.
"I wasn't sure we were going to go 230 in our first run, so I was relieved when we did," Carpenter said. "But to be honest, I didn't think going into qualifying I was going to exceed 230."
Others drivers thought Carpenter would, and it only took one practice lap and one qualifying lap to assuage any doubts. Carpenter, the fifth car on the track, averaged 230.114 then sat around all day as other drivers tried to knock him off the top rung.
Nobody caught him until a rain delay ended at 4:18 p.m. Then in a flurry of speed, Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe knocked Carpenter off the pole, Munoz knocked Hinchcliffe, his teammate, off the pole, and Carpenter retook the pole. He finished the day waiting 65 minutes to see if it would stand.
Normally, the reward for surviving such tension would be celebrating a pole win.
Instead, under the new qualifying format, all Saturday did was assure Carpenter and the other eight top cars of a top-nine starting spot on Indy's traditional 33-car starting grid. Each of the top nine will have one qualifying run Sunday with the fastest claiming the coveted No. 1 starting spot for the May 25 race.
The success of Carpenter, Munoz and Castroneves was hardly a surprise.
Carpenter, last year's pole winner, had one of the fastest cars in practice Thursday and Friday. If he wins the pole again Sunday on the track his stepfather, Tony George, once ran, Carpenter would be the second driver since 1990 to earn consecutive poles at Indy. Castroneves also did it in 2009 and 2010.
Munoz, meanwhile, drives for Michael Andretti, whose team has consistently put four or five drivers in the top 10 all week. In 2013, Munoz made his IndyCar debut here and responded by qualifying second, finishing second and walking away as the 500 rookie of the year.