By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
INDIANAPOLIS – On a day when many super teams struggled, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports stole the show during qualifications for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
After finishing third in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, James Hinchcliffe an claimed an emotional pole for the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’
Almost a year ago, the 29-year-old Canadian was fighting for his life after a suspension part penetrated his right leg and thigh after a part failure sent him into the Turn 3 wall.
The safety crew went to work right away and saved his life on the track before being rushed to emergency surgery at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. The doctors said that it would be weeks before he would walk again, but he managed to be up and walking in only just a few days and was released from the hospital just a few weeks later.
Hinchcliffe re-entered the cockpit in a series test at Road America and his enthusiasm behind the wheel was almost like he had never left.
Despite nearly losing his life, Hinchcliffe never lost his optimistic, funny personality and has tried to put his grisly accident behind him and focus on what is ahead of him.
“I try not to think about that. We still have a long race to get through. But I think one day I’ll appreciate it a little bit more maybe than I’m letting myself today. It’s crazy. I’ve said it already a hundred times just on the way over here, but it’s incredible what a difference a year makes.”
The team’s second full time driver Mikhail Aleshin also put on a dazzling performance throughout the weekend. A bold third qualifying attempt late in the day propelled Aleshin into the Fast Nine. Aleshin drove his car nearly sideways through the corners like nobody has ever done before at 16th and Georgetown.
“My steering wheel didn’t work properly, so I didn’t even know how fast I was going,” Aleshin said. “I didn’t have all of the information and stuff. It might be something where you just need to concentrate on your job and that’s it.
Oriol Servia also made the most of his Indy-only attempt as he set a lap in excess of 230 mph on Saturday and managed to log the 10th quickest time of the day to put all three cars in the top 10.
For team owner Sam Schmidt, the triumph is of nearly the same magnitude. Schmidt has built his team in the Verizon IndyCar Series from the ground since he nearly lost his life in a testing crash in Orlando, Florida in 2000 that left him paralyzed. Since then, Schmidt has not only built his team into a force to be reckoned with in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but has also battled against his condition.
Just hours before Hinchcliffe claimed the pole at Indianapolis, Schmidt turned an amazing set of laps at the Speedway in a modified Chevrolet Corvette that is controlled by breathing and by neck movements.
Schmidt has driven the ARROW project SAM Chevrolet Corvette several times before, but this time his speeds were much higher than before with trap speeds breaking 152 mph.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “I love pushing the envelope and do things that haven’t been done before. There have been a lot of positive comments from people who are inspired by the program and want to help out with technology and help out with the program.”
Image credit: Leigh Spargur/IndyCar