The field of 33 is set for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, and if the previous weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway showed us anything it’s safe to say Hoosiers can expect a thrilling race day.
For the first time in track history, Bump Day was on Saturday and Pole Day fell on Sunday. The idea behind the strategy was to have two days full of fast speeds that end with an qualifying attempts that knock drivers in- and out of the field and the top nine positions.
“I think the experience works well. At first, even we were a little unsure how (the new schedule) was going to play out. But I think it’s played out well because you have drama on both days,” IMS President Doug Boles said.
On Saturday, it was Bump Day that had race fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway riding the roller coaster of emotions full of ups and downs. Fan favorite James Hinchcliffe failed to qualify for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, Pippa Mann was also bumped and series veteran Scott Dixon snuck into Sunday’s Fast Nine Pole Day group with a late re-attempt in the final 30 minutes of Saturday’s track activity.
On Sunday household names around the speedway gave everyone in attendance their money’s worth and then some.
AJ Foyt Racing put both of its machines in the fourth row. Fan favorite Tony Kanaan and rookie Matheus Leist will start 10th and 11th, respectively. When Kanaan closed out his qualifying attempt with a four-lap average of 227.664 it was the loudest roar of the day.
Until Ed Carpenter got behind the wheel of his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka machine and put on a show during the Fast Nine.
Carpenter captured his third pole award for the Indy 500 and will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday after nudging Penske Racing’s Simon Pagenaud off the pole position in the final minutes of Fast Nine qualifying.
Carpenter’s four-lap average of 229.618 topped Pagenaud’s 228.761 – nearly one full mile an hour faster.
The previous weekend also showed us that Chevrolet engines are the class of the field, for now. Seven of the Fast Nine cars are Chevrolet engines, but that type of dominance doesn’t always hold on race day. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves said teams will work on their setups for race day, somewhat leveling the playing field between Honda and Chevrolet. Castroneves, who had the fastest qualifying speed on Saturday, will start eighth on Sunday. Sebastien Bourdais returned to IMS this year after missing the 2017 Indianapolis 500 due to his vicious crash in the turn two wall that hospitalized him. On Sunday, Bourdais bucked the Chevrolet trend when he put his No.18 Honda in the middle of row two, qualifying fifth with a four-lap average of 228.142.
“I’m just happy that we’re carrying the flag for Honda,” Bourdais said. “Honda has been the class of the field for the last three years, and obviously you’re going to expect (improvement) from the other (manufacturer). (Chevrolet) came in strong, but we’ll see what happens in the race.”
Emptying the notebook
Winner of the 2016 Indianapolis 500 Alexander Rossi was putting together a qualifying run on Sunday that looked promising until he almost lost control of his No.27 Andretti Autosport machine between turns one and two. Rossi’s car wiggled before he lifted off the throttle and regained control. The mistake cost him massive speed. Rossie finished with a four-lap average of 224.935 and will start 32nd on Sunday.
After failing to qualify for Sunday’s race, much has been speculated about what would happen to James Hinchcliffe. Currently, Hinchcliffe sits fifth in points in the Verizon Indycar Series and Sunday’s Indy 500 is worth double points. Hinchcliffe even said himself that as he understood it, his bosses at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports were looking for ways they might be able to get Hinchcliffe into a ride that was qualified for the race. But as of Sunday, nothing developed.
Monday, May 21st at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
12:00pm – Public Gates Open
12:30pm – 04:00pm – Indianapolis 500 Practice
4:30pm – 06:00pm – Indy Lights Practice
6:00pm – Public Gates Close