A thrilling late-afternoon qualifying run by James Hinchcliffe of nearly 231 mph secured first-round qualifying honors Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as Honda drivers claimed the top two preliminary qualifying positions and five of the “Fast Nine” who will contend for the pole in Sunday’s final qualifying.

Just over a year after a practice-session crash resulted in life-threatening injuries for Hinchcliffe, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver produced a four-lap average speed of 230.946 mph around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis oval to claim fastest speed of the day, with fellow Honda driver Ryan Hunter-Reay second at 230.805 mph.  

Andretti Autosport drivers Townsend Bell and Carlos Munoz, fifth and eighth, respectively; and Hinchcliffe’s teammate, Mikhail Aleshin, who posted the seventh-fastest qualifying run just as time expired, also advanced to Sunday’s “Fast Nine” pole shootout.
In the third year of the current qualifying format, the nine fastest drivers from today’s first-round qualifying will contend for the pole on Sunday, with each driver making a single attempt for the coveted pole position.  The remaining drivers are assured of making the “field of 33”, but will qualify again tomorrow to determine their starting positions.  

Live television coverage for Sunday’s final qualifying will again be on ABC, starting at 4 p.m. EDT.  The 100th running of 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) fastest in first-round qualifying:  "The car was pretty good.  What am I talking about? It was really good.  In our first [qualifying] run, I made some mistakes. So we went back and made a couple of changes to the car, and the car was extremely consistent throughout the second run.  That made the difference.  Being fastest today doesn’t really mean much more than bragging rights, but it gets us in the “Fast Nine” and a shot at the pole tomorrow.  That’s what we really wanted.  This race track means a lot to me, to everyone in the sport.  After the deal [his accident and severe injuries] a year ago, it seems like everyone in this city has supported us. I think [all the drivers] sitting up here will tell you that the competitive spirit fighting to get into the Fast Nine made for a very exciting format today.”

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Volume 2016, Issue 5, Posted 11:27 AM, 05.22.2016