Hinchcliffe Leads Fast Nine Run For Indy Pole

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 21 2016
James Hinchcliffe had the faster qualifying run Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

James Hinchcliffe had the fastest qualifying run Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He and eight other drivers will run for the pole of the 100 running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

The list of drivers who have a shot at winning the pole for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 was reduced to nine on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The nine are James Hinchliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Honda), Ryan Hunter-Reay of bugindy500Andretti Autosport (Honda), Will Power of Team Penske (Chevrolet), Helio Castroneves of Team Penske (Chevrolet), Townsend Bell of Andretti Autosport (Honda), Josef Newgarden of Ed Carpenter Racing (Chevrolet), Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Honda), Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport (Honda) and Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske (Chevrolet),

Those nine drivers were determined on the first day of qualifying. They earned berths for Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout, which will determine the starting order of the first nine cars in next Sunday’s 500, by posting the nine fastest laps on Saturday.

“Not being cocky,” Hinchcliffe, the fastest on the day, said, “but we knew we were pretty safe in the fast nine. That’s the goal today.

“Being fastest doesn’t really mean anything or pay anything, but it’s certainly a nice cherry on top. I can’t thank the boys enough. What a difference a year makes. It validates all the effort the guys have put in. These cars started getting put together back in February. They put so much effort into the cars for the month of May.”

Power climbed toward the top late in the day.

“The last lap, in Turn 1 and 2, it was lifting, shaking on the throttle,” he said. “This is the hardest qualifying I’ve ever done at this place. It was very hairy on the last lap. We got in line at the right time. I think the conditions were really good. I’m sure we’re getting in the Fast Nine, so that’s really good. It was nerve racking, sitting there and wondering if we had the speed and all that. We’d been knocked out of the nine, so I am just happy to be there, honestly. I felt like we had a good car yesterday and I was kind of disappointed with that first run. It was just conditions.”

Bell, driving the No. 29 car, sat P1 for most of the day with an average speed of 230.452 mph in his four-lap run.

But in the final hour – extended from 6 to 7 p.m. by INDYCAR officials – the sun sunk lower behind the front stretch grandstands and the track began to cool. That created an explosion of activity in the pits as a number of cars got in line and took to the track to attempt to notch a top-nine speed.

Fifteen minutes into the final hour, Castroneves drove onto the track and Bell was toppled from the top of the pylon. His average speed was 230.500 mph.

With 35 minutes left, Hinchcliffe headed out of the pits, laid down a four-lap average at 230.946 mph in his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and took the top spot.

Aleshin, a native of Russia, left the pits for the final run of the day with just 1 second left in the session. His run knocked American Alexander Rossi out of the Fast Nine.

Pippa Mann was involved in the only wreck of the session. Mann lost control in Turn 2, spun her Dale Coyne Racing car when an end-fence on the rear wing failed, and tapped the wall. The car suffered damage but Mann was not injured. Mann’s team, concerned about the wing, pulled teammate Conor Daly out the qualifying line to examine his car.

Daly took his first run of the day in the final hour but could not crack the Fast Nine lineup.

“I’m absolutely fabulous,” Mann said when asked if she was injured. “Actually it was a pretty light hit. Thankfully I was able to have really quick hands, slow down the rotation, minimize the damage when we hit.”

Not attempting a qualifying run Saturday was Max Chilton of Chip Ganassi Racing. Chilton crashed in the pre-session practice on Saturday. His Chevrolet was severely damaged but Chilton was not injured.

“I’m fine,” he said. “A bit battered and bruised. Your first accident on an oval is never a great one. The timing is pretty bad, but that’s the issue with practice before qualifying. You just want to make sure the car is right. I felt like it was a little bit strong in the front but I don’t have the experience to know what’s too much. Now I know, I know for future reference. It was my fault. I was driving the thing, so that’s the way it goes.”

Chilton’s crew spent the day rebuilding his car and it will reportedly be ready for Sunday’s field-setting qualifying session.

(This story will be updated shortly)


INDIANAPOLIS – Results of qualifying Saturday for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Rank, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1.  (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:35.8803 (230.946)
2.  (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:35.9755 (230.805)
3.  (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:36.0225 (230.736)
4.  (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:36.1822 (230.500)
5.  (29) Townsend Bell, Honda, 02:36.2147 (230.452)
6.  (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:36.3658 (230.229)
7.  (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 02:36.3798 (230.209)
8.  (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 02:36.4042 (230.173)
9.  (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:36.4522 (230.102)
10.  (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:36.4893 (230.048)
11.  (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.4966 (230.037)
12.  (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:36.6956 (229.745)
13.  (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 02:36.8651 (229.497)
14.  (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:36.9111 (229.429)
15.  (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:37.1538 (229.075)
16.  (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:37.8281 (228.096)
17.  (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 02:37.9902 (227.862)
18.  (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:38.0191 (227.821)
19.  (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 02:38.1171 (227.679)
20.  (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 02:38.2819 (227.442)
21.  (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:38.2853 (227.437)
22.  (88) Bryan Clauson, Honda, 02:38.5136 (227.110)
23.  (16) Spencer Pigot, Honda, 02:38.5202 (227.100)
24.  (77) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:38.6649 (226.893)
25.  (42) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 02:38.9057 (226.549)
26.  (61) Matt Brabham, Chevrolet, 02:39.0178 (226.390)
27.  (25) Stefan Wilson, Chevrolet, 02:39.6031 (225.560)
28.  (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 02:39.7248 (225.388)
29. (35) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 02:40.3515 (224.507)
30. (4) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 02:40.4702 (224.341)
31. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, no time (no speed)
32. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, no time (no speed)
33. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, no time (no speed)

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 21 2016
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