Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
Ryan Briscoe notched his first Indianapolis 500 pole in today’s qualifying on the 2.5- mile oval in his Team Penske Dallara Chevrolet. The Australian’s four-lap average of 226.484 mph was good enough to stick even when James Hinchcliffe made the final attempt to snag the pole but came up short.
After a long day at the Brickyard for the IZOD IndyCar Series’ fifth round of the season, the final nine drivers for the May classic pushed hard to grab the coveted pole. Hinchcliffe came up short by a mere 0.003 seconds. Taking the third spot on front row was Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Australian driver's first Indy 500 pole came with no shortage of drama as he sat and waited in line to re-qualify while outlasting two strong challenges from Andretti Autosports' Hinchcliffe (226.137 mph) and Hunter-Reay (225.893 mph) to claim the top spot.
A week ago I didn't think we'd have a shot for the pole.
“This is unbelievable,” said Briscoe. “Those four laps were so good and so consistent. It was lap four that won me the pole today; that was the set up I had on it. Everyone at Team Penske has worked so hard. Chevrolet, man, they gave us the horsepower. I’m really proud of them and IZOD. Getting a pole at Indy, this is huge. I certainly had good schooling from Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves. It feels good to get my first one here."
“A week ago I didn't think we'd have a shot for the pole," he continued. Briscoe, whose best Indy 500 finish is fifth in 2007, also becomes the first Australian to win pole for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. It is the 17th pole start for team owner Roger Penske at the Speedway.
"Yeah, the smallest of margins; it’s heartbreaking in a sense," Hinchcliffe said. "But at the end of the day we get to start on the front row of the Indy 500, and that’s just the coolest thing ever. I’m going to lose a little bit of sleep over how small that margin was to Ryan and knowing that we had it there for three, but you know that’s Indy. It’s a gust of wind, it’s a shadow over a corner that changes and that can be the difference. At the end of the day it’s a great result for us."
"I'm just so happy with the team what they've done with the race cars," Hunter-Reay commented on qualifying on the outside of row one. "They've worked so hard, and they put their heart and souls with these things. It so much fun having a fast race car at IMS. I'm definitely taking it in. I've felt the lows here, and I'm certainly taking it in and absorbing the temporary high of being on the front row. Next week is what counts, and I think we have a race car capable of doing two better next week."
Marco Andretti qualified on the inside of the second row with a speed of 225.186 mph. Briscoe teammates Will Power (225.111 mph) and Helio Castroneves (224.540 mph) fill the middle and outside spots.
Josef Newgarden, driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, was the top Honda driver in the field and qualified seventh (223.626 mph). All eight other drivers were powered by Chevrolet.
EJ Viso of KV Racing Technology and teammate Tony Kanaan fill out the last two spots in the first three rows.
Newgarden teammate Bryan Clauson lost control of his car in Turn 1 during the third lap of his qualification run, slamming into the SAFER barrier rear-first and doing substantial damage to the car while on what looked to be a solid time to earn a spot in the field at 223.599 mph. The team is believed to be making repairs sufficient for Clauson, a rookie at Indy, to qualify on Sunday.
Dreyer & Reinbold's Oriol Servia also made contact, inflicting a fair damage to his machine; again thought fixable in time for a qualification attempt tomorrow.
Former Formula 1 driver Rubens Barrichello, and teammate to Kanaan and Viso, made a strong effort to place tenth on the pylon in his first trip around the 2.5 mile oval in competition.
Scott Dixon, driving for Ganassi Racing, with a speed of 223.318 mph, and teammate Dario Franchitti at 223.665 mph qualified a disappointing fifteenth and sixteenth.
Qualifying was broken down into two segments, progressively narrowing the field to determine the pole winner. The first was from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M., to determine positions 1-24 in the field based on the fastest four-lap averages. James Hinchcliffe (225.530 mph) was the top driver during the first segment.
The top nine cars then ran in reverse order based on speeds. At the end of the session, the cars were ranked 1-9 based on their four-lap average during the final segment.
The initial 24 car/driver combinations were set today, with the remainder of the 33 spots being filled on Bump Day, on Sunday, May 20th.
IndyCar set boost levels for the Borg-Warner single and twin turbochargers utilized by Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus before the season based on testing. The standard boost level of 130 kPa (kilopascals) for superspeedways was upped to 140 kPa for today and Bump Day. The increase resulted in the addition of 40-50 horsepower.
Positions 25-33 will be determined based on Bump Day's fastest four-lap average. Once the starting field is set, any qualifying attempt that is faster than a qualified entrant in the starting field will bump the slowest qualifier, regardless of the day of qualification. The "bumping" entrant is placed at the rear of the field while the "bumped" entrant is removed from the field, but has the opportunity to bump their way back into the starting field as time allows. Each car is allowed three attempts.
The Indianapolis 500 be televised by ABC at 11A.M. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212) on May 27th from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.