By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS– One year after failing to make the 2018 Indianapolis 500, James Hinchcliffe has more qualifying drama ahead of the 2019 Indianapolis 500.
Hinchcliffe drove the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda to a first lap speed of 228.159 mph during his first qualifying attempt. While going through Turn 2, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 polesitter lost control of his car and hit the SAFER barrier exiting the corner.
He was evaluated and cleared to drive but his team had a mountain to climb getting the No. 5T backup car ready. The ASPM mechanics managed to get Hinchcliffe back on track mere hours later.
The Canadian made his first attempt of the day just after 4:00 in the afternoon in his first time on track since the incident at 1:22 p.m. and ran three laps of 226.356, 226.170 and 225.105 mph before backing out of his final lap completely to finish the attempt with a lap of 174.735 mph to average 210.475 mph. Hinchcliffe was testing how his car would go so his mechanics could adjust the car and he went out again at 4:49 p.m. for another shot at making the top 30 entries that were locked in.
After four laps of 227.268, 226.755, 226.952 and 225.155 mph, Hinchcliffe averaged 226.530 which was not fast enough to make the top 30 but there was enough time for one more attempt. At 5:32 p.m. Hinchcliffe went out on track again, but with laps of 227.363, 227.020, 226.736 and 226.706 mph the No. 5T entry was not fast enough to be locked in to the field.
“I don’t know what the ultimate gap was, but it was obviously pretty close,” said Hinchcliffe. “Huge credit to everybody at Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, it was a big effort from the whole team to get that car out there. Everybody from the (Nos.) 7, 77, 60 – they jumped in and helped. It’s a road course car, so it doesn’t have all the extra love on it that the oval cars, the superspeedway cars have, so we weren’t really sure what to expect.
“We came out, made some changes and found some speed, certainly. Obviously, it wasn’t quite enough today. Luckily, we’ve got a chance tomorrow. I’ve got a lot of faith in the crew, everybody at Arrow, everybody at Honda, they’ve done great today to rebound from a pretty bad situation. We just have to put our heads together, find a little speed on it tomorrow and come out and put this thing in the show.”
Teammates Marcus Ericsson, Oriol Servia and Jack Harvey made it into the field. Ericsson will start 13th, Servia will start 19th and Harvey will start 25th. Hinchcliffe will fight Sage Karam, Max Chilton, Patricio O’Ward, Fernando Alonso and Kyle Kaiser for a spot on the last row of the grid in the Last Row shootout that will hopefully take place on Sunday.