Bump Day Delivers on Drama
By Corey Elliot
James Hinchcliffe has been in this spot before, right there at the front of pit lane as the sun begins to slowly drop behind the grandstands along the front straight away.
Two years ago, that sun was shining bright on Hinchcliffe and the rest of his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates as they celebrated the Canadian for winning the pole position.
On Saturday, as the 5:50 p.m. gun signaled the end of track activity, Hinchcliffe exited his car to the sound of collective gasps and even crying.
For the first time since 2011, Bump Day was officially back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as 35 drivers battled for 33 spots on the starting grid.
And for the first time in his career, Hinchcliffe failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
“This is what we’ve been looking for the last few years. Bumping. It’s a show. It’s supposed to be exciting. Drama is, I guess, exciting. Unfortunately, we were a bit too dramatic today,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s disbelief. It’s a little surreal. But it’s happened before. We’re not the first big team to have to go home from this race. That’s Indy, that’s what it’s all about.”
Helio Castroneves sits P1 after he qualified his No.3 Penske Racing Pennzoil machine atop the grid with a four-lap average of 228.919. Danica Patrick rounded out the top nine with a four-lap average of 227.610. Castroneves, Patrick and seven other drivers will battle it out for the pole position on Sunday afternoon.
Hinchcliffe did qualify his No.5 machine with a four-lap average of 224.784 mph putting him in the field of 33 for much of the afternoon. But as was expected, Mother Nature impacted Saturday’s track activity. Shortly after Hinchcliffe qualified, a second rain delay shutdown track activity for more than an hour. When the track reopened, there was a little less than two hours remaining until the track closed and about 10 drivers who were still waiting to attempt their first qualifying run. By the time the field was set at 33, less than an hour remained as the bumping began.
By the time track activity came to a close, Conor Daly had bumped, been bumped out of, and bumped his way back into the field of 33 with his last victim being Hinchcliffe. But the real drama was about to ensue as Hinchcliffe went out with less than 20 minutes left to attempt to qualify his car back into the field. As Hinchcliffe entered the track, a vibration in his front right wheel made it nearly impossible to drive his car, he said. A tire pressure sensor had shaken loose and was bouncing around in his tire, so Schmidt Peterson Motorsports waived the run and Hinchcliffe was forced to get back in line.
Pippa Mann, driver of the No.63 Dale Coyne Racing machine was also trying to work her way back into the field of 33 after she was bumped out of the field in the final 20 minutes on Saturday, and the time was just after 5:52 p.m. when she began that final attempt which effectively made it impossible for Hinchcliffe to have one last chance. Mann’s final attempt turned up fruitless and she, too, failed to qualify for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
Hinchcliffe sat idle in his car as Mann went screaming by at 223 mph. Marco Andretti, who qualified 17th with a four-lap average of 226.154 was in the other qualifying lane when the track closed and was the first of several drivers to make his way to Hinchcliffe to share words of encouragement.
“(Marco) just said he couldn’t believe it,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s just tough. Everybody’s been there. It’s a stressful day for us.”
Emptying the notebook
Fans took to social media following Saturday’s activity at the track and criticized Pippa Mann for her final attempt. Many shared the sentiment that Mann should have called-off her run when she realized she didn’t have the speed to make the field of 33, which would have allowed Hinchcliffe an opportunity to start his run before the final gun sounded. During his post-qualifications press conference, Hinchcliffe shared a message to anyone who suggests such a thing:
“I’ve heard some stuff from other people. This is in no way Pippa Mann’s fault or anybody else in line’s fault. This is our fault. If there’s anybody out there that’s got anything bad to say about that, you don’t know motorsports, and keep your mouth shut,” Hinchcliffe said.
Pippa Mann couldn’t hold back tears expressing her disappointment following Saturday’s track activity that resulted in her failed attempts to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. At her post-qualifications press conference she expressed her frustration:
“We tried everything we could think of yesterday. The boys (crew) stayed really, really late last night,” Mann said. “I knew that if everything we did last night still hadn’t made us faster, we were going to be in trouble today. But you have to try and get out there anyway.”
Sunday, May 20th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
8:00am – 06:00pm – Ticket and Credential Office Open
9:00am – Public Gates Open
9:00am – 06:00pm – IMS Midway Open
10:30am – 11:15am – Enlistment Ceremony – Pagoda Plaza
12:00pm – 01:00pm – American Dairy Pin Distribution – Pagoda Plaza
12:00pm – 12:45pm – Indianapolis 500 Practice (Positions 10-33)
1:15pm – 02:00pm – Indianapolis 500 Practice (Fast 9)
2:45pm – 04:45pm – Indianapolis 500 Qualifying (Positions 10-33)
5:00pm – 05:45pm – Indianapolis 500 Qualifying (Fast 9)
5:45pm – Verizon P1 Award Ceremony
6:00pm – Public Gates Close