James Hinchcliffe wasn't entirely alone in the cockpit of the #27 GoDaddy.com car as he launched into this qualifying runs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Pole Day on Saturday: inside his lime green firesuit, Hinchcliffe had been carrying a pair of Canadian racing hero Greg Moore's trademark red gloves for luck.
"It was a very emotional thing for me, because Greg's my hero," said Hinchcliffe. Moore was one of the stars of the CART World Series in the 1990s, until he was killed in an accident at Auto Club Speedway, Fontana in 1999.
“I was approached earlier in the week by one of Greg's old mechanics who said he had a pair,” revealed Hinchcliffe after his qualifying runs. "Greg never got to run here, so he asked me if I'd take them for a spin.
"To have been approached by somebody who knew him very well and was very good friends with him and his family to do that, it was beyond an honour," he continued. "To have even been considered worthy of being able to take his gloves around for a couple laps at the Speedway was a very, very touching thing. I'm incredibly grateful I got to do that.
"I've had them all week, and I sort of decided I wanted to save them for qualifying,” he added. “Ask anybody, and one of the coolest things we get to do is qualify at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and I wanted him to be able to do that.”
Moore never took part in the Indy 500 because of the split between the CART series and the Indy Racing League at the time.
Hinchcliffe put his car onto the front row of the grid for Sunday's race, missing out on pole position by the incredibly slender margin of 0.013mph (0.0023s) to Ryan Briscoe. But that achievement was almost secondary in his mind on the day compared with thoughts of Greg Moore riding with him.
"It's just one of the coolest things I've had the chance to do. That will be a hard thing to top. It's certainly something I'll remember for a long time," he said.
But while the gloves inspired him to new heights in qualifying, Hinchcliffe feels that it wouldn't be right to take them into the race itself.
"In terms of where the gloves go for now, I think they did their job in qualifying, he said. "He helped me get a good run and a starting spot.
"We'll leave it at that. We'll leave the record intact. He's had his qualifying runs now. He's in the race as far as I'm concerned. I think that's a good place to leave it."