Pole Day at Indianapolis, where magic happens. What a day it was.
One year ago James Hinchcliffe was fighting for his life in a hospital after a horrific crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500. Today, he captured the Pole position for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. The drama was real, and the crowd was going wild as Hinchcliffe completed each of his four laps. He was the final car to qualify, and earned the first Pole of his career. Not a bad place to do it. Team Owner Sam Schmidt, who was driving the Arrow Electronics SAM Corvette at 150 mph around the Speedway earlier in the afternoon, got his second Indy 500 Pole at Indy (Alex Tagliani, 2011).
Josef Newgarden and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay join Hinchcliffe on the front row. A third American driver, Townsend Bell, starts on the inside of Row 2, with teammate Carlos Munoz in the middle, and last year’s runner-up Will Power on the outside. Row 3 belongs to Hinchcliffe’s teammate Mikhail Aleshin, and Team Penske drivers Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves.
2016 Indianapolis 500 Starting Lineup
The Canadian driver was nearly speechless after climbing out of his car. “I came into this month hoping we’d have a new story to talk about after what happened last year and I think we did it. I can’t believe it. I’m honestly at a loss for words, which everyone knows is rare for me.”
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports cars will start 1st, 7th, and 10th in the historic race, as Oriol Servia starts on the inside of Row 4. Alexander Rossi has had a phenomenal month, and was the highest qualified Rookie. Takuma Sato starts on the outside. Row 5 is oozing with high profile names, as Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti, and JR Hildebrand aim to get to the front. Row 6 should be interesting to watch in the opening laps, with Ganassi drivers Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan on the outsides, with defending race winner Juan Montoya sandwiched in between them.
Andretti Autosport has been the strongest team all month long, and it showed in qualifying. Their five cars will be starting 3rd, 4th, 5th, 11th, and 14th. Team Penske was thought to be the favorite heading into the month, but none of their cars cracked the top five. They will start 6th, 8th, 9th, and 17th next Sunday. Chip Ganassi has had a rough month at Indy once again. After Max Chilton’s spin on Saturday, the team had to put a new engine in Dixon’s car before qualifying started. They did it as a team, in about an hour. Their four-car lineup qualified 13th, 16th, 18th, and 22nd on Sunday.
The last row consists of two AJ Foyt machines, and Buddy Lazier. Jack Hawksworth just hasn’t had the speed, and Alex Tagliani spun before taking the green flag today. Graham Rahal’s struggles continued, as he will start in the middle of Row 9, in 26th position. No driver starting there has ever won the race. Even so, Graham remains optimistic about their chances next Sunday.
This is Honda’s first Pole since Houston of 2014, which was 31 races ago. It also snaps Team Penske’s streak of seven consecutive Pole starts. Hinchcliffe edged out Newgarden for the pole by just 0.0407 seconds. The action picks right back up tomorrow, with practice from 12:30-4 PM. After that, the only track time these cars will see again before the race will be the one-hour session on Carb Day.
Juan Montoya: “What can you do? We had a good run going and then I ran over the trash bag. They gave us another shot, but that’s not ideal. We came from the back of the pack last year. It’s a long race and all kinds of things happen. My Verizon Chevy team will be ready on race day.”
Helio Castroneves: “In the end our Pennzoil Chevrolet had great balance but we didn’t have the speed to get us on the front row. You don’t need to be up front to win, thankfully. I’m looking forward to getting the Chevrolet where we need to be and focus on the race ahead.”
Buddy Lazier: “It feels awesome to be here. As a driver, you want to get the most out of your stuff. We’re a small team and we’ve been getting better all the time. We just missed it a little there. We’ll get it right; we’re here to race next Sunday, that’s the main thing.”
James Hinchcliffe: “I came into this month really hoping that we would have a new story to talk about after what happened last year (crash in practice) and I think we did it. I can’t believe it. Honestly, I’m kind of at a loss for words which, as you know, is rare for me. But the Arrow Electronics car was just an absolute smoke show out there. It was right on the edge. (Lead engineer) Allen McDonald, all my engineers, did such a great job. Everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Sam Schmidt, Ric Peterson. These guys worked so hard. Three Schmidt Peterson Motorsports cars in the top 10, it’s incredible. Now we’ve got the best seat in the house for the start of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.” (What is like knowing you have a car to do it?): “It’s crazy. Obviously, this race always has more pressure than anywhere else and, it being the 100th, there’s a little more attention as well. Obviously, we’ve done something right as a team. It’s a long race. Ten miles is one thing. You’ve got to hold your breath for that whole thing. But 500 is a very different deal. You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to breathe. You’ve got to know when to push and when to relax. At least we’ve got a good starting spot, the best starting spot and we can kind of go from there.” (About his parents): “A year ago, they came here for a very different reason. They were out of the country when I had my accident last year. I can’t imagine what that plane trip must have been like for them. Mom moved in on May 1. She said she wasn’t missing a single minute of on-track action just in case I tried to kill myself again and, luckily, that wasn’t the case. We’re here. These two have been everything in my life and my career. I couldn’t have done any of it without them.”
JR Hildebrand: “We went out when the conditions were pretty lousy. We knew that ahead of time so we wanted to make sure that we could get four good laps in and not be in a position where we’re fast but having a tricky time putting laps together. You saw a lot of guys do that this morning and in qualifying today. We ended up 15th, which I think we’re pretty pleased with. At this point, it’s really about the race. Anywhere that we were going to qualify today within reason was going to put us in a position to win next Sunday. Now we use what time we have left on track to get dialed-in in race trim.”
Max Chilton: “Yesterday I lost a little bit of confidence, but I was ready to go today in the Gallagher car. Just a phenomenal effort by the whole team to get another car prepared after the incident yesterday. We struggled a bit with the setup and I’m disappointed with the way qualifying ended up like this, but it’s over now and we’ll move forward. The team deserves all the credit for turning an entire car around in 12 hours and now we’re in and the 500 is all that counts.”
Scott Dixon: “We had an engine issue this morning and Team Target and the other CGR teams changed it all out and got us ready for qualifying in just over an hour. That is absolutely unheard of. This is truly why this is a team sport. I obviously didn’t pick up a wrench today and they probably liked it that way, knowing my mechanical skills. INDYCAR would not have let us in qualifying if we didn’t get the car ready in time and we would have started dead last. Given the situation and what we went through today as a team, I’m pleased.”
Tony Kanaan: “Of course, I’m disappointed with our run today. We’ve struggled all week finding speed, but we thought we had the car to a point after this morning’s practice that we felt good about. It’s just been frustrating when you know you can be faster, but it just doesn’t come together. It is what is it is, though. We’ll just need to put this behind us and refocus on our race car. I’ve said it before, but I started further back in the field when I won in 2013 so no one should be writing us off yet.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a solid qualifying run for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team. The only shame is that we were not geared up for the tailwind. We had a rescue plan for the wind which we used, but it definitely was not ideal for us. When you upshift twice and downshift twice a lap, it’s about a tenth of a mile per hour that goes away per shift. It’s a shame because we probably should have done a 228 (mph) flat if the conditions had been better. At least the laps were very consistent. Not quick enough, not where we want to be, but we did the best with what we had today and overall it was a good run.
Will Power: “Well, I just couldn’t get the Verizon Chevy up to speed. We were wide open all of the way around. The conditions were a little harder, so we added some downforce and, unfortunately, it just wasn’t fast enough. Despite that, I’m still proud of the Verizon Chevy team and very happy with the run and getting into the Fast Nine. It was fun to be there and now we’re looking forward to the race.”
Takuma Sato: “The 14 ABC Supply crew did a fantastic job after having had difficult days this week and difficult qualifying runs for the sister cars. We were all nervous about it, especially with the gusty winds. We performed very similar to what we had this morning, which was fantastic so the engineers and crew did a perfect job and gave me a fast car, a very fast car, so I was very happy.”
Graham Rahal: “I have been chasing it all week, particularly in qualifying trim. It’s been frustrating obviously because the car has gone slower as the week has gone on and I’m not sure why that is. My race car is really good, this is just a qualifying-trim issue. We can’t put our finger on it so we’re going to have to go back and figure it out for next year. We wanted to qualify further up for the points. We’re going to lose 30-plus points to the lead group in the championship, which is frustrating because we were fifth in the points coming into qualifying. This is going to hurt us pretty bad, but what can we do? We’ve got to focus on next Sunday and try to get another Rahal in Victory Lane along with Steak ‘n Shake, PennGrade and all of our partners. We can win this thing. I started 29th and earned my best finish of third here. I’ve seen it all happen here. I’m not worried about the race.”
Spencer Pigot: “The car was definitely very comfortable today. I think we put a little bit more downforce on expecting it to be hot, windy and kind of difficult like it was this morning, but it turned out to maybe be just a little bit too much. It was comfortably flat the whole time but that’s all right. The important thing is that we’re going to be racing in the Indy 500 and the car is in one piece, so a big thank you to everyone at the team. I think we have a good race car and we will put in a lot of laps in the next couple of days of practice to try and fine tune it.”
Conor Daly: “We’ve been struggling with the heat, as a group. It’s a shame, some people are dealing with the heat better than us and making it work, but we didn’t do it today so I’m disappointed. The conditions are unpredictable, the wind is so strong and it’s sketchy. For us, to pad that, you add downforce and that takes away speed. We have to work on our setup tomorrow and make it better, but that’s all right. I know our car is fast. We could do 228s yesterday but it just goes to show you that it’s all in the conditions. This place is really challenging.”
Gabby Chaves: “I was a lot happier with the car balance today, we’re just lacking a little bit of speed after yesterday. In trying to get back to the right setup, we gave up a little bit on speed, but at least we have the car balance where we want it. I’m pretty confident that we’ll have a strong race car. I’m starting about nine positions better than I did last year and I was able to work my way into the top eight with only a few laps to go before suffering some damage to the car, so I expect to be able to overtake some cars, move my way forward and be there at the end. I’m just really happy to be here, and to have the opportunity to race in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, I can’t thank Dale Coyne Racing enough for giving me this chance.”
Ed Carpenter: “I’ve got a great car. That’s as well of handling car as when I had the pole here. It just doesn’t want to go fast this week. We’ll hope for a little more speed next week but the handling is certainly there, so I think we’ll have what it takes to get to the front in the race. We’ll have to pass more cars and be a little more aggressive than what I had anticipated earlier in the race.”
Josef Newgarden: “I got going up the gears; I went fifth, sixth on the front stretch and it was just on the limiter and with this headwind normally you downshift on the backstretch. I was just holding six on the limiter all the way through Turn 2. I was like, ‘What is going on, this thing’s super quick!’ It’s the quickest the car’s been all month. It was a good time to peak. This is the pinnacle; this is the greatest event that you can be a part of in racing so it’s just cool to be here. I was so happy to see our speed on that first lap and I got really hopeful that it might be enough to hang on, but it wasn’t. I’m happy for James (Hinchcliffe). It was a great run by them and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has done a fantastic job. We lost the battle today but I’m hoping we can win next weekend.”
Simon Pagenaud: “Well, we didn’t do as well as we would’ve liked. It was a little difficult being the first car out, but we ended up eighth and we’re happy with that. It’s actually a pretty good starting spot. We came here to win the race and that obviously is still our focus. I couldn’t be prouder of the whole Menards Chevrolet team. Everybody has worked so hard to give me a great car and I’m really excited for the race next week.”
Sage Karam: “We just had too much downforce in the car today. The cloud cover definitely cooled off the track surface and we just didn’t need that downforce. The car was so good yesterday that I thought we had a shot at 10th today. The track is changing every time you go out there. We thought we needed more downforce with the hotter track temperature and the temps down 10 degrees with the clouds. I wish we could have taken the wedges out of the car and put in some of the speed ramps. The weather was constantly changing and it just caught us out. The Gas Monkey Energy crew have been outstanding this week on setups for the race and I feel confident going into next Sunday. It’s not all about today. It’s about next Sunday. It would have made my job easier for the race if we could have qualified a bit better. It’s been nine months for me since my last race. It’s an incredible feeling to be back here at Indy. Anytime you are turning laps here it’s still a magical feeling. I can’t wait to back into Turn 1 with 32 other cars and make 200 laps again.”
Stefan Wilson: “Just really excited to be qualified for the Indy 500. It’s great to be qualified in 30th position. Thank you so much to all of the guys on my team, they’ve spent some long hours at the track to get the car ready and to work on it over the week. I’m thankful to my team owners, Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven, for giving me this opportunity and, of course, my sponsors, Gap Guard, Driven2SaveLives – Indiana Donor Network, Innovative Solar and Premiere Glass and Mirror. Thank you to all of them for making it possible. Now we get to put the downforce back in and race setup to have a good race on Sunday.”
Carlos Munoz: “Now that qualifying is finished, we are focused on the race. I expected a little bit better today. It wasn’t the best run, we could’ve done better. These United Fiber & Data guys work really good – my mechanics, my engineers, everyone. For sure, it would’ve been nice to be on the front row for the race, but qualifying is what’s nice for the show – the race is the most important thing. I think we have a good car for the race and now that’s what we will focus on.”
Marco Andretti: “Qualifying without fifth gear is not easy. All I can say is I hope we are getting our (bad) luck out of the way before this race. I ride with my guys – we could start this race 33rd and I’m going in as confident as ever. Yeah, we could’ve been top nine or even pole contenders, but we’ve been up against it all week- a different problem every time we come out. But we’re ready to battle and the way I look at it is like having a bad first pit stop in the race, even if you’re on pole. We just have to keep battling. We’re looking to do what (Juan Pablo) Montoya did last year and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) did the year before that. That’s the goal.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We left all we had in the DHL Honda on track today – it was on rails. Perfect qualifying run, just came up short. We have a great car – the crew has done a tremendous job putting together an incredible car. It’s great to start on the front row of the 100th Running of the Indy 500.”
Townsend Bell: “It was great to get back out for qualifying today – it’s the 100th Running of the Indy 500 and I had a shot at the pole, maybe even the front row. I’m a little bummed we’re not up there but we have a fast car. Our last practice run this morning, I about left the car in the dumpster. It was as close as it can possibly get here and to still drive away, I was really lucky. The California Pizza Kitchen/Robert Graham car is one of the best I’ve ever had here. It’s not just the car, though, it’s the team, the approach. Working with (engineer) Craig Hampson has just been terrific and he has given me a great car along with the whole Andretti Autosport and Honda crews.”
Alex Tagliani: “It really caught me off guard because it 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. We’ve been struggling a little with the setup 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. I thought I was going to catch it. Honestly, you always think that as the driver but, unfortunately, this time I didn’t. Honestly, when I felt it go I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to come out of that one and the next lap will be a better one.’ But I never could recover. The wiggle was too much and we lost the rear and it was too late.”
Jack Hawksworth: “The conditions were hotter than expected so the tires fell off. Like yesterday, we had consistent 225 mph speeds, but the rear tires fell off. I kept getting more loose throughout the run. The speed is still not there. We’re still struggling for outright speed and, in the end of the run, the tires fell off and we were not quick enough. The tire degradation was the biggest problem and what made the cookie crumble.”
Charlie Kimball: “We made some big changes to the car overnight and it was much better this morning in practice. The No. 42 Tresiba Chevrolet was a little less reactive to the conditions, which was nice because we fought the wind quite a lot yesterday. That’s the great thing about Chip Ganassi Racing – you get a lot of data to learn from, especially with guys as good as TK (Tony Kanaan) and (Scott) Dixon. Overall, regardless of how today went, we have a really good race car. We’ll work on the race setup tomorrow and Friday and just keep with the mentality that it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
Matt Brabham: “It was pretty solid out there today, it was nice to lay down another four clean laps. The weather was quite different to yesterday. It was a lot hotter and a bit more windy out there. The laps were good, the car felt great and there were no big moments, so it was all really well-controlled. The focus now switches to getting the race car ready. We’ve got a lot of things to sort out to get the car good for dicing with everyone else in traffic. The PIRTEK Team Murray crew are on it and will be busy over the next few days getting ready for the race.”
Pippa Mann: “It feels fantastic. Yesterday was so tough for the entire Dale Coyne Racing team and those guys stayed so late last night, they worked so hard, then to have the issues this morning as well in morning warmup, those were the first laps I turned at speed since I was backwards yesterday. Relief, happy, thrilled. We’ve had such a great race car all week, that in different circumstances, we’ve had liked to have gone faster, but for today I’m just so happy we got that taken care of and we can now get to working on our race car.”
Oriol Servia: “It really was a tough one. These windy and heat conditions make it tough. Drivers, for sure, but especially the engineers to find the right balance. We struggled yesterday. We have a very fast car, but we just couldn’t balance it for four laps. This morning, we put more downforce in it and we still couldn’t balance it. We couldn’t put four laps together. They were scratching their heads (and made some changes) and it worked. I had a fantastic car for four laps. It was very consistent. I’m happy. There’s no choice, You put it all out there. It’s a matter as if the car can handle it or not, because you’re not going to back off. That’s why I’m so happy they did a good job and gave me a great car.”
Bryan Clauson: “It’s been a lot of fun, it’s great to be back here at the speedway. It’s also been great working with our Johnathan Byrd’s/Dale Coyne Racing team and to get back into the groove. We have a good group, we’re just trying to plug away and trying to get laps and we seem to be getting better and better each time out. I can’t really ask for more.”
Alexander Rossi: “Eleventh was one away from what we could’ve hoped for after yesterday, so we’ll take it. It’s pretty clear that the Andretti cars are pretty strong, including the NAPA Auto Parts/Curb car. We’ll keep working away these next few days and do the best that we can to be as prepared as possible for race day.”