James Hinchcliffe’s story of pain and recovery has been well-chronicled since a practice crash at last year’s Indy 500.
Saturday, he began to write a new story.
The driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda soared to the top of the qualifying chart during a wild final 75 minutes of Day 1 qualifying for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, hitting 230.946 mph for his four-lap qualifying attempt after withdrawing a previous attempt in order to try to crack the top nine.
“We went back in and made the car a little bit better,” the Canadian said. “All the credit to the guys on the Arrow Electronics car – that thing is a rocket ship.
“What a difference a year makes.”
Hinchcliffe and the rest of the top nine qualifiers will get one attempt on Sunday at the pole position as Armed Forces Pole Day sets the top spot as well as the rest of the grid for the historic 100th Running.
The other drivers inside the top nine with a chance at the Verizon P1 Award and $100,000 are 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, three-time “500” champion Helio Castroneves, Townsend Bell, Josef Newgarden, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz and Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud. All qualified with a four-lap average over 230 mph.
Aleshin bumped into the Fast Nine Shootout twice in the final hour of qualifying, extended to 7 p.m. after morning rains delayed track activity, with his last attempt starting officially one second before the gun to end the session.
“(Aleshin) did so many runs, it’s unbelievable,” said car owner Sam Schmidt, who saw two of his three cars crack the top nine. “They’re all learning from each other. It’s a shame we didn’t get all three in, but we’ll take two.”
Andretti Autosport qualified three of its Hondas in the Fast Nine Shootout – Hunter-Reay, Bell and Munoz – giving the manufacturer a 5-4 edge over Chevrolet. Team Penske led the way for Chevy with three of its four cars qualifying, including the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevy of Helio Castroneves, who will chase his fifth “500” pole.
Defending Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya failed to make the top nine and in Sunday’s qualifying will only be able to land as high as 10th on the gr