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Indianapolis 500 notebook: Hunter-Reay misses chance at points lead

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 7:00 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Hunter-Reay understands the value of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. The Andretti Autosport driver is in the midst of competing for his second IndyCar Series championship, so the points allotted during the time trials mattered greatly.

Hunter-Reay, who trails series' leader Will Power by a point, desperately tried to cling to his position in the Fast Nine on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had a chance to overtake Power by besting him in qualifying.

But on his last attempt with only minutes left in qualifying, Hunter-Reay could do no better than 229.899 mph. It ended his chances at the pole and enabled Power, a top-nine qualifier, to stretch his still-narrow points lead.

“We made the wrong call. I don't know what it was,” Hunter-Reay said. “It's frustrating to be in the top nine all day then lose it at the end.

“It's a lot closer and faster than I anticipated. Every time you're on the track, points are at stake, and that's the difference between this format and the previous format. We're fighting for a championship, so we need every point we can get.”

The points were allotted even though the positions will be determined during Sunday's qualifying. For Hunter-Reay, it was worth risking damage to the car to secure qualifying points.

“We had a good first run, but we lost a little on the last lap because the front took off on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It's amazing that one corner can make a difference in your run.”

Ganassi' young driver impresses

Sage Karam, driving the No. 22 Chevrolet for Fox Chapel's Chip Ganassi, finished with the 21st-best qualifying effort to lock himself into his first Indianapolis 500.

“We qualified and made the show,” the 19-year-old IndyCar developmental driver said. “We're in the Indianapolis 500, which has been a dream of mine as long as I can remember. To finally accomplish that is an incredible feeling for me and also my family, because we've worked so hard for it.

“We know it's not today that counts, but (Sunday) and next Sunday. Hopefully tomorrow we can find another couple tenths, and try to qualify towards the front. Right now we're sitting about mid-pack, which I can work with.”

Villeneuve: 19 yearsin waiting

Jacques Villeneuve, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995, qualified here for the first time since drinking the victory milk at the Brickyard 19 years ago. The Canadian didn't have enough speed to challenge for the pole, but he's confident he has a ride to compete on race day.

“We didn't trim the car (for qualifying),” Villeneuve said. “We concentrated on race setup. We didn't have time to trim the car, so we didn't take any risk.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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