Photo from twitter.com
Canuck comic and IndyCar pilot James Hinchcliffe completed a comeback story for the ages Sunday evening, going in the span of a year from the edge of oblivion to pole position for the 100th Indianapolis 500 mile extravaganza. He edged Americans Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay, the former by thirty four thousandths of a second over four laps, or ten miles. The series wanted drama for pole day and they got it.
In an early qualifications incident, A.J. Foyt Racing‘s Alex Tagliani “got really loose!” as he said on the exit of turn 4, spun and ended up clipping the pit lane wall attenuator. He’s fine, but the car’s not and receiving a DNQ they’ll start last in 33rd. AJ should be particularly thankful for the Monday practice session.
Earlier Scott Dixon blew a Chevy engine, which is normally a death knell on the final day of qualifications, except there are only thirty three cars there. In almost super-human fashion, Ganassi’s teams changed the engines out in less than two hours, enabling him to qualify fairly well in thirteenth. That’s one better than Marco and one helluva team effort during a difficult week. Mike Hull, Ganassi’s head honcho on Dixon’s team, gave a different version. He said Chevy “asked us to change” the engine, citing “absolutely zero concern with our race engines,” when we asked.
Sage Karam was disappointed with his run of 226.4. It was only good enough for twenty third starting position. Said the twenty one year old of his run, “Sucks, man. Just way too much down force.” Exactly.
In the oddest incident of the day – and that’s saying something with many of our followers in attendance – Juan Montoya hit a trash bag during his qualifying attempt. At least it wasn’t a dryer truck. The whole thing may have been staged, the prop probably planted by Penske as a fiftieth anniversary prank on the crotchety Colombian. For those of you who don’t know, the Cap’n can get weird.
Things got weirder still, as outrageously Montoya got a do-over from a non-re-jiggered race control for some reason and was allowed to re-qualify. In essence, everybody got one shot at qualifying – except for Juan and Penske. IRR was outraged at this latest example of blatant favoritism by race control. Our latest hashtag contribution to Twitter is #NoDoOvers.
In the fast nine shootout for pole, Carlos “sorry” Munoz threw up a 230.28 mph lap and shot to provisional pole about fifteen minutes into the featured fast nine show. Russian Mikhail Aleshin who, according to Alan Bestwicke “maybe wasn’t one of the guys,” was unable to unseat the Colombian and our predictions were looking better all the time. “Sour grapes” Power attempted to knock Munoz off, but failed in furious flame out fashion. Cheever’s feeble attempt at being clever included a “will power” reference when he went out on track.
Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au
American Josef Newgarden went out and put down a four lap average of 230.7 mph, wresting the pole away for Ed Carpenter Racing, at least provisionally. As the remaining fast nine drivers attempted to relegate him, Newgarden cracked jokes, smiled and laughed as he watched and waited for the results – on camera. Tension steadily built.
Photo from edcarpenterracing.com
It was a truly dramatic moment as SPM‘s ace went on track, the last to qualify and try for the pole. As his laps roared by, the camera flashed to his owner, Sam Schmidt. The former driver and paraplegic was shown yelling, “Come on! Come on!” for his young and battle scarred pilot. On the final lap – even as Eddie Cheever bunglingly blew the call – Hinch surpassed Newgarden and took the pole. He manically pumped his fist as he drove up the pit lane to his crew. It’s his first career pole, and man is it a sweet one.
Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com
With this qualifying format, IndyCar, IMS and ABC aimed to manufacture drama. On Sunday, it totally worked. As Schmidt said, “God Bless America. This is fantastic!” Afterwards, Hinchcliffe referred to wanting “a new story” this year at Indy. He got it, and what a story it is. A tremendous comeback. He’s Mayor of Indy – at least for the next week.
Next up, it’s a history making 500 mile endurance race on Sunday. IRR will be there.