By Stephen Hawkins
AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas — Carlos Munoz qualified second for the Indianapolis 500 in his IndyCar Series debut. Three years later, he finally has his first pole.
Munoz had a two-lap average of 217.137 mph Friday at the high-banked Texas Motor Speedway to earn the pole just ahead of defending race winner Scott Dixon.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to be on pole. I didn’t expect to be 217. After practice, I really wasn’t happy with the car,” Munoz said. “When I saw my first lap on my dash, I said, ‘Oh, man, that was a good lap.’ My second lap was really good, as well. So I was the fifth car out, it took a little bit suffering with my teammates and everything.”
When the 22-car field was set, Munoz was better than his Andretti Autosport teammates and everyone other driver.
Dixon had a qualifying run of 216.901 mph. Four-time Texas winner Helio Castroneves starts third Saturday night.
After his impressive qualifying debut in the 2013 Indy 500, Munoz also finished second. He was the runner-up at the Brickyard again this season, behind Andretti-affiliated rookie Alexander Rossi, who outlasted his faster rivals and had just enough fuel for a shocking victory.
“If (that) would be my last 500 of my life, I would regret it for my whole life for sure” the 24-year-old Colombian said. “But I think it is not my last 500, I think I have many more to come. Hopefully, more opportunities.”
The Firestone 600 at the high-speed, 1 1/2-mile Texas track will be the 46th career start for Munoz. The runner-up finish at Indy was his only top-five finish this season.
NOT STARTING AS GOOD: Three Team Penske drivers qualified in the top seven. While a solid showing, last year Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves started 1-2-3 at Texas. Castroneves was the highest Penske starter this season at third, with Pagenaud sixth and Power seventh.
IN THE BACK: Both entries for Dale Coyne Racing are together on the back row. Rookie driver Conor Daly qualified 21st, the lowest of the drivers who ran qualifying laps. His teammate, Gabby Chaves, crashed wrecked his car early in the first practice Friday and didn’t get back in time to make a qualifying run. Chaves will start last in the 22-car field.
OVALS ALMOST OVER: Texas starts the second half of this season’s 16-race IndyCar Series schedule. The 1 1/2-mile track is the fifth of seven oval races. Seven of the last eight IRL races will be on street or road courses.