Bump Day, at Indianapolis. It was filled with a wide range of emotions, surprises, and even a few rain drops. Headlining the top of those were James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann, who were the two drivers that did not qualify for the race.
The field of 33 cars for the race have been determined, and tomorrow they will battle for starting positions. The 33 drivers on the other hand, could look a little different. Hinchcliffe is currently in fifth place in the championship standings, just 34 points out of the lead. This race pays double points, and missing the event would also end his title hopes. Rest assured, he will find his way into the race, but it is an odd position to be in as a driver.
Pippa has competed in the last five Indy 500 races for Dale Coyne Racing, but that streak will come to an end next Sunday. She has improved her finishing position each year, with a career best 17th place last May. It was gut wrenching to watch, but that is part of the draw to this tremendous event. Both Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Coyne had planned for four cars in this year’s race, but will each field just three now.
Indianapolis 500 Bump Day Qualifying Results
The day was dominated by Chevrolet, with Team Penske leading the way. Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was the fastest on Saturday, with a lap of 228.919 mph. His three teammates, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Simon Pagenaud, all finished inside the top nine. Joining them was the Ed Carpenter Racing trio of Ed Carpenter, Spencer Pigot, and Danica Patrick. The other two drivers in the Fast Nine were four-time champions and Honda drivers Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais. They will all compete for pole position tomorrow.
With the heartbreak that was Hinchcliffe and Mann, comes the gutsy and inspiring performances of a few others. Both Oriol Servia and Conor Daly had to battle their way in the closing moments of qualifying, making multiple attempts to find the speed they needed. They both eventually found their way into the field, but you could feel the anxiety on pit lane.
There was also the story of James Davison, who crashed in practice yesterday, and the crew spent the night repairing the car so they could attempt to qualify today. Not only did they make the repairs, but they put the car into the big show. Juncos Racing had a fantastic showing on Saturday. Kyle Kaiser made an impressive run and was 21st on the chart, easily making the race. Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo was the first driver to qualify today, and also easily made it in.
Another Rookie, Matheus Leist, was very fast and very smooth during his run. He and teammate Tony Kanaan have been fast all week, and were 11th and 12th today, just barely missing the Fast Nine. Even with six cars entered in the race, Andretti Autosport failed to get a car into the top nine. The 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi missed it by one spot, finishing 10th fastest today. The real concern is with RLL Racing, as their three cars were 29th, 30th, and 31st in qualifying. They are in, but will need to make significant improvements for tomorrow’s qualifying session.
There were two lengthy rain delays during qualifying. The first came after ten cars were able to make their runs. The other came with 12 cars still needing to make a qualifying attempt. The two delays lasted a total of 2 hours and 41 minutes. Hinchcliffe was the first to run after one of the delays, and was ready to make a late attempt to get back in, but he had a severe vibration in the car, and had to come back to pit lane before the attempt.
While some do not like seeing a driver buy their way into the race, it has happened plenty of times before. The most recent occurrence came in 2011 when Hunter-Reay had to purchase his way into the field. Hinchcliffe said he wasn’t aware of SPM’s plans, but sounded optimistic about getting in. “I mean, I’m here to race at the end of the day,” he said. “I work for Sam (Schmidt) and Ric (Peterson). Whatever Sam and Ric tell me to do, I’ll do. I believe there’s some options being investigated. At this point, I don’t know any more than you do.”
Tomorrow is Pole Day at the speedway, where the entire field will have their starting positions determined. The drivers who qualified 10th through 33rd today will each make one four-lap run in Group 1 qualifying starting at 2:45 PM in reverse order of their Saturday qualifying speeds. The Fast Nine Shootout will begin at 5 PM, to set the first three rows of the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Each group will have a 45-minute practice session tomorrow, the first at Noon, and the second at 1:15 PM. Live streaming will be available, and ABC will provide the final 2 hours of coverage at 4 PM.