Hinchcliffe takes Indy 500 pole

2016-05-23 12:23
James Hinchcliffe (Twitter)

Chicago - Canada's James Hinchcliffe, who was nearly killed last year in an Indianapolis 500 practice crash, captured pole position on Sunday for next weekend's 100th running of the US oval classic.

On the final qualifying run for next Sunday's race at 2.5-mile (4km) Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hinchcliffe drove his Honda-powered car to a four-lap qualifying average of 230.760 mph (371.372 km/h).

Hinchcliffe was hospitalised last May after a third-turn crash into the outer wall caused severe injuries, a steel rod from the car going through his right thigh and into his left leg, causing massive bleeding and a season-ending injury.

The 29-year-old from Oakville, Ontario, never doubted he would return to racing and one year later he has become the man to beat for IndyCar's greatest prize.

"I came into this month hoping we would have a new story to talk about than last year and I think we did it," Hinchcliffe said.

"Mom said she wasn't missing a single lap of on-track action in case I tried to 'kill myself' again. Fortunately I didn't do that."

What Hinchcliffe did is win his first-ever IndyCar pole at the Indy 500, a feat last managed by the late US racer Scott Brayton in 1995, and edge American Josef Newgarden for the inside front row spot by the fourth-smallest margin in Indy 500 history.

"It was right on the edge. I can hardly believe it," Hinchcliffe said. "It's crazy.

"This race is more pressure than anyplace else and being the 100th is more attention on it too. But we've got the best starting spot and we can go from there."

Newgarden will start from the middle of the first row in the 33-car field after a qualifying run of 230.700 mph with another American, 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, on the outside after an average of 230.648.

The nine fastest cars from Saturday's first day of qualifying were able to run for the pole Sunday while the rest filled out the back eight rows. Drivers then made one run for the pole in reverse order of qualifying speed.

Newgarden made his run fourth and had to watch as four rivals chased it and failed, a slow final lap denying Hunter-Reay but setting the stage for Hinchcliffe.

"I was like 'What the hell is going on? This car is super quick,'" Newgarden said of his first lap, the day's fastest single lap at 231.551 mph. "That was the fastest it had been all month."

Hinchcliffe posted three laps faster than Newgarden's average and came home on the final lap in 230.450 mph to take the pole, forcing Newgarden to settle for improving his best-ever Indy start from seventh to second.

American Townsend Bell, Colombia's Carlos Munoz and Australian Will Power will start in that order in row two with Russian Mikhail Aleshin, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves of Brazil in row three.

Pagenaud has won the past three IndyCar races to seize the season points lead but those wins all came in road-course events.

"The wind was blowing a lot harder and when it is you're going to go slower," Pagenaud said of his run for the pole.

Starting order for next Sunday's 100th Indianapolis 500 after Sunday's final day of time trials, with driver, nationality and four-lap qualifying speed average at the 2.5-mile (4km) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval:

Row One
1. James Hinchcliffe (CAN) 230.760 mph (371.372 km/hr)
2. Josef Newgarden (USA) 230.700
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay (USA) 230.648

Row Two
4. Townsend Bell (USA) 230.481
5. Carlos Munoz (COL) 230.287
6. Will Power (AUS) 229.669

Row Three
7. Mikhail Aleshin (RUS) 229.562
8. Simon Pagenaud (FRA) 229.139
9. Helio Castroneves (BRA) 229.115

Row Four
10. Oriol Servia (ESP) 229.060
11. Alexander Rossi (USA) 228.473
12. Takuma Sato (JPN) 228.029

Row Five
13. Scott Dixon (NZL) 227.991
14. Marco Andretti (USA) 227.969
15. J.R. Hildebrand (USA) 227.876

Row Six
16. Charlie Kimball (USA) 227.822
17. Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) 227.684
18. Tony Kanaan (BRA) 227.430

Row Seven
19. Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) 227.428
20. Ed Carpenter (USA) 227.226
21. Gabby Chaves (COL) 227.192

Row Eight
22. Max Chilton (GBR) 226.686
23. Sage Karam (USA) 226.436
24. Conor Daly (USA) 226.312

Row Nine
25. Pippa Mann (GBR) 226.006
26. Graham Rahal (USA) 225.847
27. Matt Brabham (AUS) 225.727

Row Ten
28. Bryan Clauson (USA) 225.266
29. Spencer Pigot (USA) 224.847
30. Stefan Wilson (GBR) 224.602

Row Eleven
31. Jack Hawksworth (GBR) 224.596
32. Buddy Lazier (USA) 222.154
33. Alex Tagliani (CAN) crash, no time

Read more on:    indy 500  |  motorsport

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