19 May 2012
Indy 500: Pole Day - qualifying updates
Power's new lap was well down on his first and he ended up waiving it off before the end, bringing to an end any prospect of an all-Penske front row. Then it was Hinch's turn, and this time the warm-up lap was far more leisurely in an attempt to save the rubber for the qualifying laps; but when he turned the wick up, the pace wasn't there and he was a long way short of improving on his time and taking pole, so that ended in a waiver as well.
With Hinchcliffe falling short, Penske could pull Briscoe from the inspection line confident that they had pole position locked down. Instead they thought that they could focus on improving Castroneves' starting position, but this too ended up in a waive-off and it seemed that the best conditions of the day were behind them.
Marco Andretti had no better luck, falling short of his earlier time by a lender margin and handing the baton to his team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay to make a try. Hunter-Reay's first lap looked to stand a chance of challenging Briscoe, and his remaining laps were still an improvement on his first run, but ultimately the aggregate lap speed of 226.240mph was sufficient to put Hunter-Reay onto the outside of the front row in third place.
Update at 10.15pm BST (5.15pm Indiana time):
EJ Viso was first out on track in the 90-minute fast nine pole shootout session, but he did not complete the run before pulling back into pit lane looking very underspeed, although it seemed that he was pulling the same sort of trick seen increasingly in F1 Q3 these days of just doing a sighting lap before calling it a day.
Marco Andretti followed him out on track, setting a benchmark for pole position of 225.456mph straight away - almost a mile an hour better than he had done earlier in the day, as temperatures started to ease off.
Tony Kanaan also aborted his first appearance out on track, leaving the way open for Ryan Briscoe to have a go at Marco's time. It was a massive effort and resulted in an aggregate time of 226.484mph, over a mile an hour faster than Marco and already looking like it might be unbeatable.
Sudden cloud cover coincided with Helio Castroneves' run which helped give him a little extra grip, but that only translated into a lap speed of 225.172mph for provisional third place. Ryan Hunter-Reay did rather better a few minutes later and slotted into second place with a lap speed of 225.772mph, followed by Will Power putting the #12 Penske Verizon car into third with a lap speed of 225.526mph.
With honours looking fairly even between the Penske and Andretti crews, it fell to the mayor of Hinchtown to cast the deciding vote with his first pole shootout qualifying run to see if he could replicate his earlier blistering form that had shot him into an unassailable lead of main qualifying session.
James Hinchcliffe's warm-up lap alone was an unequalled 227.009mph, but he couldn't replicate that on his four timed laps and ended up 0.003mph slower than Briscoe for second spot with an aggregate lap of 226.481mph. The groans of the crowd at the near miss echoed around the speedway.
Fortunately, in the fast nine session there is no need for anyone to formally withdraw their standing time in order to make another run. The chances surely are that the mayor will be back in action before the close of play.
Update at 9.30pm BST (4.30pm Indiana time):
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