Hinchcliffe can't explain where SPM's pace has gone: "It's a mystery"

James Hinchcliffe isn't sure what has happened to the pace of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, a team that put all three cars inside the top ten in qualifying for the 2016 Indy 500.

Hinchcliffe can't explain where SPM's pace has gone: "It's a mystery"
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

But it's been a very different story in 2017. Mikhail Aleshin is the highest-starting SPM driver in 13th while 2016 pole-sitter Hinchcliffe is down in 17th. Jay Howard, making his first Indy 500 start since 2011, will do so from 20th on the grid.

"It’s a bit of a mystery," said Hinchcliffe. "We haven’t quite diagnosed where the speed went. We had great cars obviously last year in qualifying trim (with) all three of our cars in the top ten. We don’t have one up there now. It’s tough because not a lot changed technically in the rules, so we’re not quite sure where the speed went but ultimately, as long as the car is good in race trim, hopefully we can have a shot to win this thing."

With few regulation changes, but such a drop in performance, Hinchcliffe and team have been left puzzled and looking for answers. "It wasn’t just everyone got faster and we stayed the same," he explained. "We actually slowed down and we’re not sure why, so that’s been unfortunate."

Things got worse for the No. 5 on Carb Day when Hinch was forced to pull off to the side of the track with an engine failure. If there's anything positive to be taken from that, it has to be that the failure happened on Friday instead of in the early laps of the 500.

But it's not all bad news for Hinchcliffe. Despite the lack of speed, he noted that the car has been very comfortable in traffic and he's doing well on tire wear, which he believes will be important come race-time. And if there's anything the 100th running of the this race taught, it's that the fastest car doesn't always win.

"It was weird to us that we’ve seem to phantomly lost a little bit of pace. But balance wise, the car is very strong. With the nature of the racing here at Indy now, it’s not all about the fastest car anymore. I hate to use the term, but it’s almost like a big pack race here. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the quickest car in the straight line, (but) as long as you have a good balance."

 

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