One year ago, James Hinchcliffe was fighting for his life after a hard crash caused a large piece of suspension to impale both his legs during practice in last year’s Indy 500. Today, Hinchcliffe came back to the track that almost took his life and qualified on the pole for the 100th Indy 500.
Hinchcliffe had to endure two days of qualification and had to wait until being the last out on Sunday to go for the pole. His four lap average of 230.760 mph just barely beat Josef Newgarden and won his first IndyCar pole in 79 starts.
— IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) May 22, 2016
But while Hinchcliffe had to wait an entire weekend to win pole, this was the culmination of a year full of hard work to go from near-death to Indy pole winner. After his crash, Hinchcliffe was immediately sent for emergency surgery to remove the piece of suspension and to save his life. The track crew that follows the IndyCar Series are some of the best in the world at treating injuries that come from high-speed crashes as well as the driver’s medical histories to correctly and efficiently treat each driver so in a moment like this, do all they can to keep the driver alive.
Hinchcliffe’s owner, Sam Schmidt, has also had to endure struggles of his own to get to this moment. After suffering a serious crash in 1999 that left him a quadriplegic, Schmidt became a team owner and also fulfills his need for speed by racing online as well as developing a semi-autonimous car that he can operate by moving his head. Schmidt’s car also sat on the pole for the Indy 500 in 2011 but has never won in his 15 years as an owner.
Now that Hinchcliffe has won the pole, he knows that it is only half the battle. While the pole is a great achievement, focus will now be centered toward next Sunday and the actual 50o miles. Hinchcliffe hasn’t had the best of luck in the Indy 500, with a best finish of 6th in 2012. But after finishing 3rd last week on the Indy road course and winning the pole today, maybe the track that almost killed him is finally showing him some respect and give him a chance to win the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”