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EMBURY: Silver Lining From Recent Pole Day Washouts

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Although qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 was delayed due to rain and thunderstorms activity, one should not immediately view this as a doom and gloom situation.

In reality, some of the most unpredictable battles for the pole position at the Brickyard have occurred in years where rain has interrupted the proceedings.

The most recent wipeout scenario took place two years ago. After inclement weather shut down action after only two drivers had made attempts on Saturday, Scott Dixon took over late on Sunday afternoon to score his second Indianapolis 500 pole position. Despite the advantage in horsepower shown by Chevrolet in 2015, the stoppage benefited Andretti Autosport’s Justin Wilson as he surprised most by qualifying sixth, the best among the Japanese manufacturer’s entrants.

2006 qualifying action was pushed back an entire week as rain prevented on-track activity. The delay gave a chance for several one-off teams to qualify higher than they could have done otherwise. Up front, the biggest beneficiaries were Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. With Honda supplying engines for all 33 cars in the field, Roger Penske was able to find other ways to gain an edge. One route was introducing a more aerodynamic side mirror mount. Once time trials began, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Helio Castroneves were unchallenged, taking the top two spots on the front row. The former IndyCar and NASCAR veteran from Defiance, Ohio, qualified nearly a full mile per hour faster than the rest of the grid, posting a 228.9 MPH average. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon would take the next two positions.

2005 Pole Day was moved to Sunday of week one. Expectations soared in the morning as rookie Danica Patrick posted the fastest lap of the early preparation at 229.880 MPH. Unfortunately, Patrick could not back the effort up, as she got loose in turn one on her opening qualifying lap. The mistake relegated her to the fourth starting position on race day. With “Danica-Mania” temporarily on hiatus, another Brickyard fan favorite stepped forward. Going out early in the initial order, Tony Kanaan fired off four consistent at over 227 MPH to take his first and only Indy 500 pole award to date. Sam Hornish, Jr. rebounded from a poor first try to claim second, while Scott Sharp also took advantage of an early draw to complete the front row.

2003 was one of the messiest Pole Days ever. Adverse conditions engulfed the Indianapolis area following the morning practice, even causing the announcement of two Tornado Warnings from the National Weather Service. Although the rain exited the 2.5mile oval a day later, track conditions were still treacherous with gusty winds a common foe. Andretti Autosport teammates Tony Kanaan and Robby Gordon ran the best four-lap averages early in the qualifying period, only to be ousted late by an incredible performance from Helio Castroneves. Braving the below average weather, the Brazilian posted an amazing 231.725 MPH speed to snatch his first of four pole position earned at the Speedway. Only Rick Mears has more in the Indy 500 with six.

So, as you can see the saying, “The best things come to those who wait,” could very apply to the action in store this weekend.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad. A major follower of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Matt has attended six previous Indianapolis 500s and rates Tony Kanaan's long awaited victory in the 2013 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as his favorite memory. Outside of following auto racing, Matt is an avid fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletics program and can often be seen at home games throughout the season or running the audio controls on several ND-related radio programs. A native of Springboro, Ohio, Matt now resides in Mishawaka, Indiana.