5.18.13 – Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a fantastic one for Andretti Autosport’s fantastic five. The Indianapolis-based team will have drivers on the first, second and third row for the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 to take place on Sunday, May 26.
Muñoz qualified the No. 26 Unistraw Chevy in P2 during today's Fast Nine Shootout recording an average speed of 228.342mph. His run proved to be the second fastest qualifying speed from a rookie at Indy, trailing only Tony Stewart’s 233.100mph in 1996. The 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is a dream come true for the 21-year-old Colombian, who will start on the front row next to teammate Marco Andretti. “I don't have too many words to describe how happy I am,” said an ecstatic Muñoz, “just to be a rookie on the front row is a dream come true.” Looking forward to the race, Carlos was excited, but knew he had a big challenge ahead of him. “The front row is just perfect for the race. It's a 500-mile race, and I'm in a part of the field with few problems at the start. Right now I have to focus on the race; I have to finish this month off just the way I started it.” Only nine rookies in the history of IndyCar racing have won the famed 500-mile race. The last driver to win his first Indianapolis 500 was Helio Castroneves in 2001. The year prior to Helio’s win, Juan Pablo Montoya, also a Colombian, started second for Chip Ganassi and led 167 laps on his way to winning his only Indy 500. Muñoz will look to replicate Montoya’s feat next Sunday.
Third-generation racer Marco Andretti showed he’s not scared of the “Andretti Curse” at the Speedway by placing the RC Cola Chevy solidly on the outside of the front row. Now in his eighth year of IndyCar competition, Marco’s 2013 season start has been the best of his career. Sitting second in the IZOD IndyCar Series points chase, today’s qualifying points narrows the gap leaving Marco only five points out of the lead (unofficial). “Definitely pleased,” said Marco. “If we're not going to be on pole, it's an incredible honor to be on the front row at Indianapolis. Extremely proud of Andretti Autosport. Five out of the top nine is just an incredible achievement. Chevrolet, what a statement. I'm definitely proud of them. But as for the RC Cola car, after my first run this afternoon, I wouldn't say my pole hopes were totally dashed but they diminished a little bit, and I knew if we just went the conservative route that we'd be on the first two rows anyway."
Venezuelan E.J. Viso will make his career-best Indy 500 start on the outside of the second row in fourth after securing a place in the Fast Nine Shootout alongside his four Andretti Autosport teammates. Putting down a four-lap average speed of 228.150mph, the 28-year-old held provisional pole through Penske’s AJ Allmendinger’s run and relinquished the provisional pole to teammate Marco Andretti. All-in-all it was a great day for the 28-year-old from Caracas, however, who will make his sixth Indianapolis 500 start and first with Andretti Autosport. "Starting my sixth Indy 500 in the second row is a great accomplishment. I'm very proud to be in the team I'm racing with this year – with a group of incredible professionals that I'm surrounded by. I believe my crew did a great j
ob; we've been working very hard here every single day we've been at the track. It's not only a job that has been done this week – it took all the winter for the team to figure out many of things that we were able to put on the car. To put five cars in the top nine, it means a lot. I'm starting next to my teammates, and at this point I'm just looking forward to having a great race.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay ended the day in seventh after the Fast Nine Shootout, his second and final four-lap average standing at 227.904mph. A disappointed Hunter-Reay will start from the inside of row three on race day. “We’re disappointed with the end result, but to get five Andretti Autosport cars in the Fast Nine is massive for this team,” said the defending series champion. “We went for it, we really went for it, and we just overshot it a little bit.Five hundred miles next week is all that counts. We’ll work together up there as a team, too, that’s the good bit.”
Sao Paulo, Brazil race winner James Hinchcliffe was able to pilot the No. 27 GoDaddy car into the Fast Nine, but just barely. His Chevrolet was ninth out of nine when the shootout started at 6:30 this evening (an earlier rain shower postponed qualifications by about 2 hours), and ended up ninth with a four-lap average of 227.070mph. “At the end of the day, I think it’s right where we should have been. It was a good effort to get into the fast nine.” Hinchcliffe will roll off from the outside of row three in his third Indy 500. “We sat on the bubble all day, which was tough, very stressful, but ultimately that was enough to get in.” A brief issue with gearing hurt the Canuck’s first lap of his second run, “we caught some hard limiter on a shift coming to the green – and when you get the limiter it just kills your speed – so our first lap speed was atrocious.” The Mayor of Hinchtown’s first lap was more than two miles per hour slower than his other three, relegating him to ninth overall at the end of the Shootout. Still, James was more than pleased with the team’s overall performance. “So proud of the team and for how much work we put into our race cars. For us to qualify where we did, I’m really excited.”
That's all from the Speedway for today, be sure to follow the official Andretti Autosport Twitter feed (@FollowAndretti) for live twitter coverage and a behind-the-scenes look at all of the festivities and preparations leading up to race day.
If you find yourself in Speedway, Indiana on Wednesday, May 22, be sure to stop by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to say hello to the "Andretti 5" during the public autograph session at 4:30 p.m. You can also catch Marco Andretti on May 23 at 6 p.m. at the local Marsh Supermarket on 38th Street.