James Hinchcliffe takes the pole for the Indy 500 

Hinch was fastest, two days running

click to enlarge James Hinchcliffe is quicker than you. - CHRIS JONES
  • James Hinchcliffe is quicker than you.
  • Chris Jones

James Hinchcliffe’s comeback story has just gotten even better. After finishing the first day of qualifying in the top spot, he has won the pole for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. This was Hinchcliffe’s first INDYCAR series pole. “I’ve never done this before, I’m nervous,” said Hinchcliffe as he put his awarded P1 sticker onto his car.

“We have the best seat in the house for the biggest race ever,” said Hinchcliffe when asked about winning the pole position. “It was a true team effort,” said team owner Sam Schmidt (referring to lower no-tow speeds by Hinchcliffe early in the week). “We have 57 guys who don’t get any of the glory,” added co-owner Ric Peterson.

Today the field was set for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. 30 of the 33 car entries officially qualified for the race yesterday and the remaining three qualified early this afternoon.

INDYCAR series points leader Simon Pagenaud was the first driver on the track in group 2 qualifying for the pole position. He started things off with an average of 229.139 mph. However, he was quickly be overtaken by the next driver to qualify, Carlos Munoz. He took the provisional pole position qualifying after averaging 230.287 mph.

The next driver in the fast nine was Russian Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He edged into the fast nine with a qualifying attempt that started just three seconds before the final gun signaling the end of qualifying the day before. His time was good enough to provisionally put him in the second position with an average speed of 229.562 mph.

The 21 car of Josef Newgarden of Ed Carpenter racing was the fourth car to take to the track. He started off hot with a first lap speed of 231.551 mph. His lines were a little different from many of the cars of the day. He wasn’t keeping as close to the white line in the turns as many of the other drivers were. At the end of his run with an average of 230.700 mph he found himself provisionally in the pole position for next weekend’s race.

Andretti Autosport’s Townsend Bell followed Newgarden onto the track. Bell held the top speed for a time yesterday in qualifying. With each lap slightly better than the one before it Bell finished his run with an average speed of 230.481 mph. This would put him in the provisional second position.

After finishing yesterday fourth on the speed chart, three-time 500 champion Helio Castroneves saw his turn on the track. Castroneves, the only active three-time winner, started over a full mile per hour off the pace for the pole position with an average speed of 229.690. His speeds dropped off as he turned his four laps. He finished fifth provisionally with an average of 229.115, continuing with Penske’s struggles this week.

Fellow Team Penske driver Will Power, who finished second last year after battling on the last lap with Juan Pablo Montoya began his run averaging 230.081. Power, like Castroneves before him had trouble keeps his speed up and dropped a little bit each lap. His average speed of 229.669 put him fourth provisionally on the grid for the race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay driving for Andretti Autosport was the second to last driver on the track for his attempt at the pole position for this year’s Indy 500. Hunter-Reay, winner of the 2014 race started his run strong with an average of 230.595. Hunter-Reay, who was on pace to take the pole all the way to his final lap finished his run with an average of 230.648 to take second on the provisional grid. “When you have a fast car in Indianapolis, there is no better feeling in the world,” said Hunter-Reay after finishing 3rd on the front row.

The last run of the day went to the top driver of the first day of qualifying, James Hinchcliffe. His first lap of the day was his warmup lap, as neither of the Sam Schmidt drivers took to the track for practice today. He started his run where he left off the day before with a speed of 230.885 which put him on pace for the pole. His second lap was faster than the one before it with an average of 230.940. His third lap was slower than the one before it, but was good enough to keep him on the pole. After all four laps were complete he finished with an average of 230.760 mph. This put him on the pole for the Indy 500 by .06 of a mph.

“I watched him (Sam Schmidt) do 150 out there, what I did today pales in comparison” said Hinchcliffe, referring to Schmidt’s run in a custom-built Corvette earlier in the day.

There was one accident this afternoon as Alex Tagliani lost it in turn 4 as he was set to begin his four-lap qualifying run. “It really caught me off guard because (the spin) really happened late into the corner — like almost at the exit of Turn 4. I was really almost at the straightaway and that’s why I got caught because normally when I get loose early on I have a chance to catch it. It’s really unfortunate,” said Tagliani after being cleared from the medical center.

Tagliani’s car has been loose this past week in practice. He acknowledged this as well, saying “We’ve been struggling a little but with the set up and we just need to regroup and hopefully get it back and try to forget about this one and have a good race for the team and the sponsor.”

Scott Dixon’s car saw some issues early in the day as well. Although he didn’t have an accident, he did need to have a new engine installed in his car. It typically takes three hours for an engine change, but his team was able to install the engine in 90 minutes and Dixon was able to get the car out for a qualifying run.

Here is the starting order for the 2016 Indianapolis 500:

Pos. (#);Name;Engine;Speed

1. (5); James Hinchcliffe;Honda;;230.760
2. (21);Josef Newgarden;Chevrolet;230.700
3. (28);Ryan Hunter-Reay;Honda;230.648
4. (29);Townsend Bell;Honda;230.481
5. (26);Carlos Munoz;Honda;230.287
6. (12);Will Power;Chevrolet;229.669
7. (7);Mikhail Aleshin;Honda;229.562
8. (22);Simon Pagenaud;Chevrolet;229.139
9. (3);Helio Castroneves;Chevrolet;229.115
10. (77);Oriol Servia;Honda; 229.060
11. (98);Alexander Rossi;Honda; 228.473
12. (14);Takuma Sato;Honda; 228.029
13. (27);Marco Andretti;Honda;;227.969
14. (9);Scott Dixon;Chevrolet; 227.991
15. (6);JR Hildebrand;Chevrolet; 227.876
16. (42);Charlie Kimball;Chevrolet; 227.822
17. (2);Juan Pablo Montoya;Chevrolet;227.684
18. (10);Tony Kanaan;Chevrolet;227.430
19. (11);Sebastien Bourdais;Chevrolet;227.428
20. (20);Ed Carpenter;Chevrolet;227.226
21. (19);Gabby Chaves;Honda;227.192
22. (8);Max Chilton;Chevrolet;226.686
23. (24);Sage Karam;Chevrolet;226.436
24. (18);Conor Daly;Honda;226.312
25. (63);Pippa Mann;Honda;226.006
26. (15);Graham Rahal;Honda;225.847
27. (61);Matt Brabham;Chevrolet;225.727
28. (88);Bryan Clauson;Honda;225.266
29. (16);Spencer Pigot;Honda;224.847
30. (25);Stefan Wilson;Chevrolet;224.602
31. (41);Jack Hawksworth;Honda;224.596
32. (4);Buddy Lazier;Chevrolet;222.154
33. (35);Alex Tagliani;Honda; Did not run (Crash)

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