For the first time in several years, paul Tracy won't be in this year's running of the Inddianapolis 500
But James Hinchcliffe, from Oakville, Ontario, will be in the middle of the front row when the traditional field of 33 cars takes the green flag to start the 96th running of the big race tomorrow.
In just his second year of IndyCar racing, Hinchcliffe qualified second to Ryan Briscoe by just .0023 seconds over a four lap qualifying run. The average speed for both drivers was more than 226 mph (363 km/h).
Hinchcliffe replaced the highly popular Danika Patrick in the GoDaddy-sponsored Andretti Autosport car after she moved to NASCAR at the end of last season. He has proven to be a good choice, with a high level of popularity of his own and even better performance on the track.
Ryan Hunter Reay, one of Hinchcliffe's Andretti Autosport teammates, will start beside him in third place.
Further back, starting in 11th place, will be IndyCar veteran, Alex Tagliani, from Montreal, Quebec, who was last year's pole-sitter.
Tagliani is driving for Bryan Herta Autosport, the team that won last year's 500, with Dan Wheldon driving. Wheldon was killed in a multi-car crash at the season-ending race in Las Vegas last October.
Another Canadian, Todd Malloy (my son), was Wheldon's race engineer for last year's winning effort and he is also engineering Tagliani's car this year.
IndyCar adopted a new car design for 2012, as well as new engines. While all the cars are built by the same manufacturer – Dallara – there are three different engine providers – Chevrolet, Honda, and Lotus.
Chevrolet-powered cars have dominated the IndyCar season so far, winning all four races to date, and nine of the top ten qualifiers for the 500, including Hinchcliffe, use Chevrolet engines.
Tagliani's car is the second-fastest Honda, based on qualifying times – a significant feat given that the Herta team started the season with a Lotus engine, which proved to be uncompetitive.
They were able to make the switch to Honda power virtually on the eve of first practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Based on his performance throughout the month at the Speedway, Hinchcliffe would seem to have a good chance of winning the big race.
Although Tracy came close (many believe he was the rightful winner of the 2002 race) the only Canadian ever to officially win the Indy 500 was Jacques Villeneuve, in 1995, in car number was 27. Not coincidentally, Hinchcliffe's car is number 27.
But don't count out Tagliani. As last year's race proved, anything can happen, even on the last corner of the last lap.