By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Nearly a year after his near fatal crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, James Hinchcliffe claimed the pole position during qualifying for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
The Canadian was the final car to qualify in the Fast Nine Shootout to determine the pole. He had to beat a seemingly perfect qualifying run set by Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden. Newgarden set the fastest lap of the day with a 231.551 mph flyer and ended up with a four lap average of 230.700 mph. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay went out second to last and was the only driver that could even come close to Newgarden’s monster lap until Hinchcliffe went out.
While Hinchcliffe did not break into the 231 barrier, he managed to click off 4 smooth laps with a four lap average of 230.760 mph, just a scant .06 of a mile an hour ahead of Newgarden.
“I came into this month hoping we’d have a new story to talk about after what happened last year and I think we did it,” said Hinchcliffe. “I can’t believe it. I’m honestly at a loss for words, which everyone knows is rare for me.”
“The Arrow Electronics car was an absolute smoke show out there. It was right on the edge. (Lead engineer) Allen McDonald and all my engineers did such a great job, everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson put me in the car and gave me the car to do it. Three Schmidt Peterson cars in the top 10 is incredible.”
The pole also marks Hinchcliffe’s first Verizon IndyCar Series pole. The pole also came five years to the day since Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s first pole at the Indianapolis 500 set by Alex Tagliani in 2011. It is also the first pole for Honda since Houston race 1 in 2014.
Hunter-Reay will make his second start from the front row as he will chase his second 500 crown. The lineup of Hinchcliffe, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay will mark the first time that a Penske or Ganassi car did not start on the front row at Indianapolis since 2004.
The American led an Andretti Autosport sweep of the next three spots followed by Townsend Bell, who will match his career best starting spot at the 500 and Carlos Munoz will roll off in fifth.
Will Power was the quickest driver in the Team Penske stable and was only able to muster a sixth place qualifying effort. Following a dazzling qualifying performance yesterday, Mikhail Aleshin will make his best IndyCar start of the year with a seventh place starting spot.
Team Penske filled out the 3rd row with series points leader Simon Pagenaud qualifying in eighth and 3-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will start from ninth. Oriol Servia made it three Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports cars in the top ten.
After losing an engine in final practice this afternoon, Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing crew made an engine change in just over an hour and Dixon managed to make it to his place in line to qualify and managed to qualify in 13th, his worst starting spot in three years.
Juan Pablo Montoya had a bizarre qualifying run as he hit a trash bag on the track, which hindered his run and would have put him last on the grid. INDYCAR officials elected to give Montoya a second attempt to qualify and Montoya logged the 17th fastest time.
Graham Rahal’s struggles from yesterday carried over today as he struggled to find speed and grip on his #15 Steak n Shake Honda.
Alex Tagliani suffered the only other incident of the day as he spun coming off of turn 4 as he was coming to get the green flag and hit the pit road attenuator and spun violently down the frontstretch, but walked away unhurt.
Image Credit: Bret Kelley/IndyCar
Starting Lineup for the 100th Indianpolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil