James Hinchcliffe’s comeback story has an amazing new chapter written in it. On Hinchcliffe’s first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 since his accident in practice last year he finished the day at the top of the speed chart. Hinchcliffe, who led the field in a Honda powered car finished with a four lap average of 230.946 mph. “The people here have been great to me since last year, and it was good to do it for them,” Hinchcliffe said afterwards. He also noted that it’s only good for the day, and acknowledged everything resets later. Hinchcliffe reached the average after withdrawing his original attempt.
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished the day in second on the speed chart with an average speed of 230.736 mph.
Tony Kanaan started things off for the day with a four lap average of 227.679. Wind conditions made driving out there tricky early on. “Conditions are tough and obviously it was nowhere near where we wanted to be, but we had to be a little bit conservative on this first attempt,” said Kanaan about driving in the early qualifying conditions.
Juan Pablo Montoya also expressed frustrations with the weather, saying “It seemed like I adjusted the car enough to get it balanced and I tried to go a little fast into Turn 3 and it just gave up on me. I had to get out of the gas and pedal it. This has been the worst conditions of the day.”
Team Penske driver Will Power was the highest qualifying Chevy driver was an average of 230.736. His time was good enough for third best of the day. Teammate Helio Castroneves finished fourth with a time of 230.500.
The early portions of qualifying proved to be the most exciting with drivers having laps in the low to middle 230’s. Oriol Servia topped 231 on the first lap of his qualifying run, but his pace dropped with each lap to finish with a four lap average of 229.883 to just miss out on the fast nine, by having the 10th fastest qualifying run originally. He eventually withdrew his time and finished slower with his second attempt to post an official time of 226.893 which dropped him down to the 25th spot.
Alexander Rossi had the top qualifying speed among rookies, and sits in the tenth position with an average speed of 230.048 mph, just outside the fast nine. He sat in the fast nine all afternoon until bumped out by Mikhail Aleshin in the final attempt of the day. Rossi held the top speed among Honda engines for 12 more runs until Andretti Autosport teammate Bell overtook him. “That was disappointing but that’s the way it goes here. This morning (practice) we had a little bit of that but we didn’t do four laps this morning by ourselves. All in all, I think it’s a decent job,” said Rossi on his run. “A tailwind in Turn 1 was more than I expected and the front end took of a little bit. It was great to complete qualifying; we’ll wait and see where we wind up,” commented Rossi on his disappointing final lap which lowered his 4 lap average by more than one mph.
These was one accident during qualifying today as Pippa Mann spun out inside turn 2. The car suffered from a failure of her rear wing end plate. Mikhail Aleshin came close to an accident on two occasions nearly hitting the wall coming out of turn 2. “The run was fine at the start, but then I started to struggle with the rear of the car in Turn 1. The car started to drift from the turning point. I decided to keep the throttle and it was a little bit difficult at the end of the turn. But, it was fine,” said Aleshin on his first qualifying attempt.
Aleshin was the first driver to make a second attempt and was able to re-join the fast nine with a speed of 229.568. Aleshin was also the last driver out to make a qualifying run after once again being bumped from the fast nine. He finished the day with an average of 230.209. This marked an improvement on each of his qualifying runs. Graham Rahal was the first driver willing to forfeit his time by entering the “fast lane” and finished the day with an official average of 227.437. This was only good for 21 on the speed chart.
Matthew Brabham will become just the third-third generation driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500. He earned his was into next weekend’s race with an average of 226.390. “The car was solid and got four consistent good laps. We’re in the race, it doesn’t get better than that,” said Brabham.
Saturday’s qualifying mainly served the purpose of being eligible for the pole position on Sunday’s Pole Day qualifying. On Sunday all qualifying times reset. Positions 10-33 will be set on qualifying runs beginning at 2:45 p.m. Fast Nine qualifying for Pole will take place beginning at 5 p.m. and run until 5:45 p.m.
The fast nine for day one of qualifying for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 are: James Hincliffe (230.946), Ryan Hunter-Reay (230.805), Will Power (230.736), Helio Castroneves (230.500), Townsend Bell (230.452), Josef Newgarden (230.229) Mikhail Aleshin (230.209) Carlos Munoz (230.173), Simon Pagenaud (230.102).