Perhaps once a year, a race appears on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule that produces —or at least gives the hope of—interesting and unexpected results.
For years, Surfers Paradise was that race, producing a different winner every year for over a decade. Two years ago, it was St. Petersburg, where Graham Rahal won in his IndyCar debut. Last year, we almost had two: Watkins Glen, where Justin Wilson gave Dale Coyne Racing its first win in 25 years of racing, and Kentucky, where underdog Ed Carpenter nearly stole his first career victory, only to be thwarted at the line by Ryan Briscoe.
This year, Carpenter's driving like he's got unfinished business at the track.
Now a part-time driver employed by a collaboration between Vision and Panther Racing, Carpenter shocked the world with a qualifying average speed of nearly 218 miles per hour, and will start on the pole for Saturday's Kentucky Indy 300. He beat even series points leader (and sudden oval wunderkind) Will Power to the top spot. Carpenter's teammate, Dan Wheldon, will roll off directly behind in third.
If that wasn't crazy enough, Conquest Racing's new de facto lead driver, Bertrand Baguette, qualified in sixth place, with teammate Tomas Scheckter in 10th. They both outpaced last week's winner, Dario Franchitti, who will start 11th. Baguette even beat Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves (eighth) and Ryan Briscoe (ninth) in the session.
If that wasn't out of left field enough for you, Milka Duno legitimately outqualified two other cars—those of Rahal and Tony Kanaan, respectively. Kanaan was an unfathomable seven miles per hour off the pace, reminiscent of his struggles at Indianapolis earlier this year. Rahal was only five miles per hour off in a Sarah Fisher Racing car that has struggled for much of the season with Jay Howard behind the wheel.
Ryan Hunter-Reay will start shotgun on the field after crashing in qualifying and being unable to produce a time.
Paul Tracy, making his first oval start in half a decade, will start 23rd for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, the slowest of the cars that maintained a pace reasonably close to that of the leader. He was the last driver to break 214 miles per hour in qualifying.