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Like this month, drivers not sure what Indy 500 pole day will bring

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SPEEDWAY – One thing is for certain in this unusual week of practicing and qualifying for the Indianapolis 500: the defending pole winner is doing everything he can to get it back.

For a second straight day Ed Carpenter broke the 230 mph barrier to top the speed charts on Saturday afternoon as the new qualifications for the Greatest Spectacle played out during another weather-shortened day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He’s one of nine drivers who cracked into the Fast Nine pole qualification session for early Sunday afternoon, where the top three rows of the race will be determined. Those whose times finished between 10th and 33rd on Saturday will have their times thrown out and re-qualify for those positions.

But the main attention will be on Carpenter and the top nine, who all came in with four-lap averages over 230 miles per hour. Carpenter was the fastest at 230.661 with Carlos Munoz at 230.460 and Helio Castroneves at 230.432 just behind him in the provisional front row.

James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and JR Hildebrand will join them in the Fast Nine shootout at 2 p.m.

Despite his speed and his teammate’s, Carpenter doesn’t feel like he has any better grip on what will happen for the run at the pole.

“You saw guys going faster and going slower, going faster, going slower today depending on which run they were on,” said Carpenter. “Some guys moved forward some guys moved back when they pulled out their time so it just comes down to the engineers and drivers making the right decisions, believing in it and laying down four good ones.”

Castroneves, who has won the pole position for the race four times, joins Carpenter in saying that he’s not sure what Sunday will bring with the new format.

“Every time we went out there we improved and we hope to continue that for tomorrow. When things are new you don’t know what to expect,” said Castroneves. “I was just kind of like excited to find out what’s going to happen but it turned out to be not bad.”

Josef Newgarden is saying the exact same thing after he made a surprise run into the Fast Nine late on Saturday afternoon with a four-lap average of 230.033 miles per hour, an attempt that even caught him off guard.

“They pulled something out of their hats. Unbelievable. They put on a little different setup,” said Newgarden of his team. “We definitely went for it. 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.”

That’s not always a bad thing in a pair of days where change is the norm.