While not on the pole, Ryan Hunter-Reay still has great seat for Indy 500

Leave a comment

He may not have won the pole for next Sunday’s historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, but Ryan Hunter-Reay isn’t complaining.

After all, the 2014 winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing still has a great seat for the May 29th classic: he’s on the outside of the front row at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Canadian James Hinchcliffe earned his first career pole – in the biggest race in the world – with a four-lap qualifying speed of 230.760 mph.

Then came Americans Josef Newgarden (230.700 mph) and Hunter-Reay (230.648) to round out the front row.

“It was so close,” Hunter-Reay said. “The car was the best we’ve had in qualifying this whole time. I knew it would start to go loose. I couldn’t feel the rear much. It was a great run, but that’s all we had in it.”

While he may be disappointed he didn’t get the pole, Hunter-Reay was ecstatic that Hinchcliffe won the pole, coming back from his near-fatal crash during practice last May at IMS.

“I’m so happy for Hinch, he’s one of my really good friends,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s just incredible. I don’t think anyone can describe almost losing your life to going 240 (mph). It’s absolutely incredible. What an amazing pole winner.”

This is the second time Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe have shared the front row at Indy. Hinchcliffe qualified second between polesitter Ryan Briscoe and Hunter-Reay was third to start the 2012 Indy 500 (eventually won by Dario Franchitti).

“Good memories, yes,” Hunter-Reay said. “We spent years as teammates (at Andretti Autosport) and this is just great. The emotions are so drastic here. There’s so much invested emotionally, physically, financially in this whole event. Having a shot at pole was all you could ask for.”

Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay will be piloting Hondas in the race, while Newgarden will be in a Chevy.

“It’s great to have two Hondas on the front row, P1 and P3,” Hunter-Reay said. “They really stepped it up and threw a big punch. The 100th running, to be on the front row, is a great spot.

“When you have a good car at IMS, there’s no better feeling. Nothing is right in the world when you’re slow. Fast and you’re on cloud nine. I absolutely love this place. We’ll be dialing it in tomorrow, everything will change. It’s incredibly stressful but I’m happy its over.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).