May 19, 2012 | By Dave Lewandowski
Briscoe Earns Pole Start By Closest Margin Ever
Ryan Briscoe had two hours to mentally prepare himself to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 after crashing in practice on Pole Day 2011.
“That was very difficult to get back in the car and go out to qualify,” related the Team Penske driver, who started 26th.
Race Day didn’t prove to be any better for the Aussie. On May 27, he'll have a decidedly better view of the first turn.
Briscoe's four-lap time of 2 minutes, 38.9514 seconds (average speed of 226.484 mph) in the 90-minute shootout for the top nine qualifiers bested the time of 2:38.9537 (226.481) posted by James Hinchcliffe to earn the pole position for the 96th Running of the 500 Mile Race.
“This is unbelievable. Those four laps were so good and so consistent,” Briscoe said. “It was Lap 4 (39.7643 seconds) that won me the pole. 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.”
The time differential of 0.0023 of a second is the closest 1-2 in race qualifying history (equivalent to 9.168 inches over the four laps). The 1970 time trials yielded a difference of 0.01 of a second between pole winner Al Unser (3:31.49) and Johnny Rutherford.
"Yeah, the smallest of margins; it’s heartbreaking in a sense," said Hinchcliffe, who recorded the best lap of the session (39.6591 seconds on Lap 1 of his second attempt). “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 laps, 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.
"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. At the end of the day it’s a great result for us."
Briscoe is the first Australian to sit on the pole at Indianapolis (Scott Dixon was born in Australia but claims New Zealand as his homeland). It's the 17th pole start for team owner Roger Penske at the Speedway.
"A week ago I didn't think we'd have a shot for the pole," said Briscoe, whose best Indy 500 finish is fifth in 2007 (his only IZOD IndyCar Series race of the season).
Briscoe and Hinchcliffe, competing in his second Indy 500, will be joined on the front row for the 200-lap race May 27 by Ryan Hunter-Reay (226.240). It's the first time brothers-in-law (Hunter-Reay and Robby Gordon) have started on the front row.
“Almost, but I’m just so happy with the team what they’ve done with the race cars,” said Hunter-Reay, who didn’t qualify for the 2011 race but competed (started 33rd, finished 23rd) in an A.J. Foyt Racing car. “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’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.”
Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti, IZOD IndyCar Series points leader Will Power and four-time pole sitter Helio Castroneves will be on Row 2. Rookie Josef Newgarden -- the only Honda driver in the shootout – KV Racing Technology teammates Tony Kanaan and E.J. Viso will share Row 3.
“It was tough qualifying the first time and even tougher the second,” said Kanaan, who first run of 225.100 mph four-lap average in Segment One was disqualified because of a post-qualifying technical inspection infraction (not enough ballast). “I’m just glad we were able to get back into the fast nine. We will finish working on our race set-up (May 20) and then see what we can do about getting my first win at Indy next Sunday.”
Four different teams are represented on the front three rows.
Other notables from the first day of time trials; the final nine spots will be filled on Bump Day (May 20) from noon to 6 p.m.:
• Rubens Barrichello, competing in his first oval event, qualified 10th in the No. 8 BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology car. “It’s been an awesome experience. I’m proud.”
• Alex Tagliani, the 2011 pole winner with a four-lap average speed in the shootout of 227.472 mph, checked in at 11th in the No. 98 Team Barracuda-BHA car. Team co-owner Bryan Herta won the 500 Mile Race last year with driver Dan Wheldon.
• Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, who have three Indy 500 wins between them, will start 15th and 16th, respectively.
• Michel Jourdain Jr., who last competed in the “500” in 1996, qualified 22nd in the No. 30 Office Depot/Rahal Letterman Racing car.
• Sebastian Saavedra, who will “do the double” of competing in the Freedom 100 and Indy 500 for the second time, cracked the top 24 with one minute left in Segment One. His four-lap average speed of 222.811 mph bumped Wade Cunningham to Bump Day.
• Drivers Ed Carpenter, Bryan Clauson and Oriol Servia crashed on qualifying laps. They’re all OK and will have cars ready for Bump Day.