On Sunday at IMS, Hinchcliffe won the pole for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
He did it in a Honda owned by relatively small Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and he did it a year after Hinchcliffe was nearly bled to death in a wreck at Indy when he was impaled by a piece of his car.
“You know,” Hinchcliffe said, “I came into this month really hoping we’d have a new story to talk about after what happened last year and I think we did it.”
Hinchcliffe, going out last among the nine drivers in the Fast Nine Challenge because he was the fastest qualifier from day one, posted an four-lap average speed of 230.760 mph to earn the pole – his first in an Indy car.
Starting with him on the front row will be Americans Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud, a three-time winner in 2016, was first onto the track in the Challenge round as a result of him being ninth fastest Saturday. His four-lap average in his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet was 229.139 mph. That was 1 mph slower than his average from the day before.
Pagenaud was quickly knocked off the provisional power by Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport, who was second in the qualifying line. Munoz average in his No. 26 Honda was 230.287.
Munoz’s speed stood until American Josef Newgarden, who came out fourth in his No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, posted 230.700 mph.
Newgarden withstood challenges from Townsent Bell, who went out fifth in an Andretti Honda; three-time 500 winner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske; former series champion Will Power of Team Penske; former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Honda.
Then came Toronto, Canada’s Hinchcliffe, who was fastest on Saturday.
Timing and scoring showed that Hinchcliffe was slightly behind Newgarden as the final of his four laps began. But on that last lap, Hinchcliffe, who called his car “a absolute smoke show”, tracked down and passed Newgarden.
The margin of .060 mph between Hinchcliffe and Newgarden was the narrowest in the history of the event.
Prior to the start of the Fast Nine Challenge, the drivers who were not among the fastest nine in Saturday’s qualifying session took to the track to decide the makeup of spots 10 through 33 on the starting grid.
Fastest in that session, and securing the No. 10 starting spot, was veteran Oriol Servia.
Defending race champion Juan Pablo Montoya had an interesting day. On the third lap of his run in the non Fast Nine session, his car ran over a plastic trash bag at speed. Montoya lifted immediately and his speed dropped well off the pace. He drove the car into the pits where team members checked his car. INDYCAR officials then ruled that he would be granted another full run.
“It caught the front wing scared the hell out of me,” Montoya said, adding that his car on the run was fast enough to be best in the session.
On this Sunday, a week before the running of the 100th running of the Indy 500, The Mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe, unanimously became the mayor of Speedway, IN!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!