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Briscoe edges Hinchcliffe in closest Indy 500 qualifying

Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Ryan Briscoe beat James Hinchcliffe by the slimmest of margins to win the pole position for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Briscoe's margin over Hinchcliffe was 0.0023 seconds, making it the closest 1-2 qualifying finish in race history. Time trials for the 1970 Indy 500 featured a margin of 0.01 seconds between pole winner Al Unser and second- place Johnny Rutherford.

During the 90-minute "Fast Nine" shootout, Briscoe posted a four-lap average of 226.484 mph to earn his first pole for the Indy 500. He also gave Team Penske its fifth straight pole in as many races this season. Penske has also won four races so far this year -- all of them contested on road/street courses. The 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the first oval event of the season.

"This is huge," Briscoe said. "Man, I'm happy. This is unbelievable. Those pole laps were so good and so consistent. It was lap four that won me the pole today."

Briscoe is the first Australian-born driver to win the Indy 500 pole. His previous best start in this race was second, which came in 2009.

Team owner Roger Penske collected his record-extending 17th pole win for the Indy 500 as well. Rick Mears won six of them for Penske and Helio Castroneves four. Briscoe became the eighth different driver from the racing organization to capture the top starting spot for the 500-mile race at Indianapolis.

"It all about our people and the team," Penske said. "Ryan certainly needed this one. He's done a great job for us but never quite got it [Indy 500 pole]. But today he stretched himself. The guys did a great job on the car. It's just a pleasure bringing that Chevrolet engine down home front."

Moments after Briscoe's attempt, Hinchcliffe, who is in his first season with Andretti Autosport, turned in a four-lap average of 226.481 mph. He was attempting to become the second Canadian to win the pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His fellow countryman, Alex Tagliani, won the top starting position for this race last year.

"It's weird to be sitting here in the middle of the first row for the Indy 500 and be that disappointed, but to be so close, it's such a kick in the pants," Hinchcliffe said after he made his last qualifying run.

He had the fastest qualifying time during the first five and a half hours of the session.

Hinchcliffe's teammates, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, qualified third and fourth, respectively. Hunter-Reay will lineup with Briscoe and Hinchcliffe on the front row for the Indy 500.

"We had the speed there to really challenge Briscoe," Hunter-Reay said. "We got a little bit of a head wind going down the backstraight, but whatever it was, we're starting on the front row. I have a fast race car, and I'm absolutely thrilled with that."

Briscoe's teammates, Will Power and Castroneves, who is a three-time Indy 500 race winner, qualified fifth and sixth in that order. They will share row two with Andretti.

In its return to IndyCar as an engine supplier this year, Chevrolet locked down eight of the top-nine starting spots. Rookie Josef Newgarden, who uses a Honda engine in his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry, qualified seventh. Newgarden topped the speed charts in three of the first five days of practice at Indy.

"I'm happy and the team is happy," Newgarden said. "We really wanted to come in and maximize our potential, and I think we did that. We wanted to make it into the 'Fast Nine.' We achieved that, and now we got a great starting position with seventh."

Tony Kanaan and E.J. Viso advanced into the shootout but did not complete their qualifying runs during the final segment. They will share the third row with Newgarden.

Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon failed to make it into the shootout. Franchitti, the three-time defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion and two-time Indy 500 winner, qualified 16th. Dixon, who is also a former series champion and race winner, placed one spot better than his teammate in 15th.

"We're just having a hard time figuring this one out," said Franchitti, who won the Indy 500 in 2007 and '10. "It's not been a very good qualifying day for us. It just shows that everybody can get it wrong sometimes."

Twenty-four drivers secured their starting positions for the May 27 race. The remainder of the 33-car field will be determined in Sunday's "Bump Day," which is schedule to begin at noon (ET).

Rookie Bryan Clauson, who is Newgarden's teammate at SFHR, crashed during his qualifying run. On his fourth and final lap, Clauson got loose coming into turn one and spun around before backing it hard into the outside wall. He was not injured during the incident.

I got into [turn] one, and it snapped right around on me," Clauson said.

Oriol Servia from Dreyer and Reinbold Racing as well as driver/owner Ed Carpenter also wrecked during their attempts.

05/19 21:27:08 ET


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