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While not on the pole, Ryan Hunter-Reay still has great seat for Indy 500

Phoenix Grand Prix

AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 02: Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the #28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda IndyCar is introduced before the Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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He may not have won the pole for next Sunday’s historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, but Ryan Hunter-Reay isn’t complaining.

After all, the 2014 winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing still has a great seat for the May 29th classic: he’s on the outside of the front row at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Canadian James Hinchcliffe earned his first career pole – in the biggest race in the world – with a four-lap qualifying speed of 230.760 mph.

Then came Americans Josef Newgarden (230.700 mph) and Hunter-Reay (230.648) to round out the front row.

“It was so close,” Hunter-Reay said. “The car was the best we’ve had in qualifying this whole time. I knew it would start to go loose. I couldn’t feel the rear much. It was a great run, but that’s all we had in it.”

While he may be disappointed he didn’t get the pole, Hunter-Reay was ecstatic that Hinchcliffe won the pole, coming back from his near-fatal crash during practice last May at IMS.

“I’m so happy for Hinch, he’s one of my really good friends,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s just incredible. I don’t think anyone can describe almost losing your life to going 240 (mph). It’s absolutely incredible. What an amazing pole winner.”

This is the second time Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe have shared the front row at Indy. Hinchcliffe qualified second between polesitter Ryan Briscoe and Hunter-Reay was third to start the 2012 Indy 500 (eventually won by Dario Franchitti).

“Good memories, yes,” Hunter-Reay said. “We spent years as teammates (at Andretti Autosport) and this is just great. The emotions are so drastic here. There’s so much invested emotionally, physically, financially in this whole event. Having a shot at pole was all you could ask for.”

Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay will be piloting Hondas in the race, while Newgarden will be in a Chevy.

“It’s great to have two Hondas on the front row, P1 and P3,” Hunter-Reay said. “They really stepped it up and threw a big punch. The 100th running, to be on the front row, is a great spot.

“When you have a good car at IMS, there’s no better feeling. Nothing is right in the world when you’re slow. Fast and you’re on cloud nine. I absolutely love this place. We’ll be dialing it in tomorrow, everything will change. It’s incredibly stressful but I’m happy its over.”

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