James Hinchcliffe had a little help when he delivered an electrifying performance in qualifying at the Indianapolis 500.
The driver from Oakville, Ont., carried an extra pair of gloves inside his suit Saturday as he earned the second spot on the starting grid for the May 27 race.
The gloves belonged to Canadian IndyCar driver Greg Moore, who died after a crash at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., in 1999.
“I was approached earlier in the week by one of Greg’s old mechanics who said he had a pair,” Hinchcliffe said. “Greg never got to run here, so (the mechanic) asked me if I’d take them for a spin. I’ve had them all week and I decided I wanted to save them for qualifying. One of the coolest things we get to do is qualify at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I wanted (Greg) to be able to do that.
“It was a very special thing. After we went to the top in the first segment, I was given the phone number of Greg’s father, Ric Moore, who asked me to call him. I got to chat with him a little bit, which was very special for me.”
Hinchcliffe will start from the middle of the front row after his shootout speed was just a fraction slower than the pole-winning speed of Australian Ryan Briscoe (226.484 miles per hour).
The Canadian driver led the 33-car field in the first qualifying segment, with a four-lap average speed of 225.746 m.p.h. Hinchcliffe returned for the final nine-car shootout, posting an average of 226.481 m.p.h. in his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet-powered Dallara.
The speed differential between the top two qualifiers was the smallest in the history of the Indy 500. Several drivers noted the impact of tiny changes in track and weather conditions on qualifying speeds.
“The smallest margin — it’s heart-breaking in a sense, but at the end of the day, we get to start on the front row and that’s just the coolest thing ever,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’m going to lose a little bit of sleep over how small that margin was to Ryan and to know that we had it (the pole position) for three or four laps. But that’s mini, man, it’s a gust of wind, it’s a shadow over a corner that changes, and that can be the difference.”
Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., last year’s Indy 500 polesitter, qualified 11th for the 2012 race after a late change from Lotus to Honda power for his No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Dallara.