LEEDS, Ala – The Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing duo of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal may have swept the front row for Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (4 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network) but if not for a rare mistake by James Hinchcliffe on his hot lap in the Firestone Fast Six, then they’d likely be split up.
See, Hinchcliffe has a ton of speed in his No. 5 Honda. The Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver was third, first and first respectively in the three NTT IndyCar Series practice sessions around the Barber Motorsports Park this weekend.
So, the fact that he made the Fast Six on Saturday afternoon wasn’t surprising. He was the likely pole favorite. But, when he slightly went off course on his run in Q3, he lost some crucial time on his lap. If he had a better line, the pole was likely his.
That’s why he was so frustrated with himself when it was all said and done. He knows he had more and should have given his team the pole. Now, he goes after a win on Sunday.
“Fourth is the worst we’ve been all weekend, which is a crazy thing to say,” said Hinchcliffe. “In one sense, we’re obviously thankful for that. The Arrow car has been great right off the truck. Honestly, I feel bad for the guys because we had a really strong car and I made a mistake in that first run in (the Firestone Fast Six), and that was our better set of tires. We put the good ones on first and tried to just do one and done and I screwed up coming out of Turn 17. I’m going to be kicking myself on that one for a while because I know it cost us a good shot at pole. We can race from the second row. The Arrow guys have been great in the pits all year long, and it is a long race here at Barber. We just need to keep our heads down, be smart in the race and hopefully make up for it.”
He can do so too.
Hinchcliffe, finished third in this very race a year ago. Overall, he has five consecutive top seven finishes at Barber and six in his last seven starts. He has the most consistent car this weekend and I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s celebrating in victory lane on Sunday.