05.20.12 BY GEORGE RICHARDS – MiamiHerald.com
INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Briscoe sat in his car waiting for someone to knock him off the pole for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.
Although a few tried, no one did.
Briscoe averaged 226.484 mph during the Fast Nine qualifying session Saturday about 70 minutes before the session ended. Despite challenges from rookie James Hinchcliffe and Fort Lauderdale’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, no one was able to top Briscoe’s only run of the afternoon as he earned the Indy 500 pole position for the first time.
“This is huge. This is unbelievable,” Briscoe said. “I’ve never had a team work so hard. Getting a pole at Indy is huge. It feels good to get my first one here.”
Briscoe will lead the field to the green flag next Sunday with Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay alongside on Row 1. The pole win was the 17th by 11 different drivers for Roger Penske’s team – both of which are Indy 500 records.
Hinchcliffe looked to be the guy to knock Briscoe out after turning a warm-up lap at 227.009 on his first go. Hinchcliffe, who replaced Danica Patrick in the neon green Go Daddy car for Andretti Autosport, slowed however, and finished just behind Briscoe.
â€œI did nothing different than in any qualifying attempt or simulation,â€ Hinchcliffe said of his hot start on a practice lap that didn’t count. “I did the exact same routine. I’ve never had a warm-up lap quicker than my first flyer. When I saw the 227 on the warm-up, I thought “this will do” figuring it would just get faster. It just didn’t.”
Hinchcliffe gave it a second go but pulled off after two laps keeping his initial run of an average of 226.481 mph. Hinchcliffe, last year’s IndyLights champ, was part of the closest 1-2 qualifying by time in Indy 500 history.
Hunter-Reay earned his top start at Indianapolis in what will be his fifth 500. Hunter-Reay, whose previous best start here was 17th in 2010, didn’t initially make the field of 33 last May. He was on the outside of the starting grid before Andretti’s team purchased the ride of Bruno Junqueira, allowing him to race – although he started dead last.
Although he can’t relax too much, Hunter-Reay knows he’s in a great position compared with last year.
“I definitely prefer this side of it,” said Hunter-Reay, who finished sixth here as a rookie in 2008. “It’s a lot more fun this way. It’s been a great week. We had a legitimate shot for the pole at Indy. That’s fun. It’s been a complete turnaround. I can’t thank my team enough for giving me such a fast car.”