Honda Racing–Tagliani Leads Honda Indy Qualifying

Veteran Canadian Indy car driver Alex Tagliani led the Honda effort in “Pole Day” qualifying Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and will start 11th in next weekend’s 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.  Tagliani’s four-lap average of 227.386 mph was almost a full mile per hour faster than the 2012 pole speed of 226.484 mph, set by Ryan Briscoe, yet still missed the making the final “Top Nine Shootout” by just one-tenth of a mile per hour.

Nine Honda-powered drivers made successful qualifying runs today around the historic 2.5-mile oval, with Justin Wilson qualifying 14th to lead the three-car Dale Coyne Racing effort.  Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti will start 16th and 17th, respectively.  In 2012, Franchitti went on to win his third “500” after starting 16th.

IZOD IndyCar Series points leader Takuma Sato will start 18th for Honda and A.J. Foyt Racing, followed by Charlie Kimball in the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 19th.  After being knocked out of the field – the first 24 positions of the 33-driver grid were set in today’s qualifying runs – James Jakes dramatically “bumped” his way back into the field in the final minutes of qualifying, and will start 20th in his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Simon Pagenaud, making his second “500” start for Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, qualified 21st, while 2012 pole qualifier Briscoe rounded out the first-day qualifiers for Honda, and will start 23rd in his NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues tomorrow with a morning practice session, followed by final “Bump Day” qualifying to set the final nine starting positions for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.  Television coverage, beginning at 11 a.m. EDT, will be provided by the NBC Sports Network. 

Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development): “Obviously, we came here shooting for the pole, but came up short.  We’re all racers at Honda, and today’s results are very disappointing.  But we’ve got a pretty good record of winning here [at Indianapolis, with nine consecutive race victories], and hopefully we’ll be drinking milk again next weekend.   We have to knuckle down and keep fighting.  That’s what we did in 2012, and that’s what we plan to do again this year.”

Alex Tagliani (#98 Barracuda Racing/BHA Honda) qualified 11th for the second consecutive year at the Indianapolis 500:  “I’m very pleased with the team. The boys had somewhat of a rough week, but worked really hard to make sure that we had a strong car.I’m super confident with the car that we have for the race. I’m also very pleased with how Honda improved during the week of practice. They responded really well to what I was asking from the engine for my qualifying run. Honda worked with us to make sure we had a fair chance to fight the competition, and I’m pleased with the way they responded.”