INDIANAPOLIS, May 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- After a thrilling final-hour performance on Saturday, James Hinchcliffe again delivered when it mattered the most, claiming the pole Sunday for next weekend's Indianapolis 500, edging Josef Newgarden and fellow Honda driver Ryan Hunter-Reay by the narrowest of margins in the final qualifying run of the day. It is Hinchcliffe's first "500" pole, and the ninth for Honda at the historic Brickyard.
Hinchcliffe's run of nearly 231 mph on Saturday secured first-round qualifying honors, and meant he would be the last of five Honda drivers vying or the pole during today's "Fast Nine" shootout. The fourth driver to make a run, Newgarden posted a four-lap average of 230.700 mph that moved him to the top of the speed chart. After both Helio Castroneves and Will Power came up sort, the next-to-last qualifier, Hunter-Reay came close to toppling him, but ended his four-lap run fractionally slower, at 230.648 mph.
That left Hinchcliffe as the final driver to qualify, and just over a year after a practice-session crash resulted in life-threatening injuries, "Hinch" produced a four-lap average speed of 230.760 mph around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis oval to claim the pole for himself, his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team, and Honda. It was Hinchcliffe's first Indianapolis 500 pole, after qualifying second in 2014.
Behind Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport drivers Townsend Bell and Carlos Munoz claimed the fourth and fifth positions, respectively, and Hinchcliffe's teammate, Mikhail Aleshin, will start seventh. Honda drivers also dominated today's second-round qualifying – for starting positions 10-33 – with Oriol Servia, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato qualifying 10th through 12th; and Marco Andretti, 14th. The Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday, May 29, with live coverage on ABC starting at 11 a.m. EDT.
James Hinchcliffe (#5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) pole qualifier for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, his first "500" pole: "I mean, I try not to think about [what it means to qualify on the pole] too much. We still have a long race to get through one week from today. One day, I'll appreciate it a lot more. It all starts right here, with Sam [Schmidt] and Ric [Peterson]. They built this incredible team. It starts from the top, but goes to all the crew guys who build and run these cars. This is a point of pride today for the team, for Honda and all the incredible work they've done. It [qualifying] was a great run, the car was stellar. I have to thank my teammates a huge amount, we communicated well all week long. The car definitely was on the ragged edge, it was getting free-er and free-er every lap and I was moving the weight jacker all the time. But that's what it takes to win the pole here. I kinda feel bad for Josef, but not THAT bad. I've been there before (narrowly missing the pole in 2014). There's still one big thing to check off the box before we start talking "movie rights", and that's next Sunday. I hope a week from now we have an even better story to tell."
Art St. Cyr (president, Honda Performance Development) on today's ninth Indianapolis 500 pole or Honda: "It's a great day for Honda. This is culmination of 12 months of incredibly hard work and focus on the Indy 500. Congratulations to everyone at HPD, who has worked so tirelessly to not just close the gap we experienced last year, but to back put us on top. Our partners at Schmidt-Peterson, Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, and all of our teams have worked equally hard to achieve this common goal. A special congratulations to 'Hinch' and Ryan for putting it all on the line for the pole and front-row starting positions. But we all know, the true goal arrives next Sunday: to win the 100th Indianapolis 500."
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SOURCE Honda Racing