INDY 500 - Bump Day Shocker - Hinch Heads Home to Hinchtown

A dejected James Hinchcliffe misses the 2018 Indy 500. RIS/Larry CLarino

INDIANAPOLIS -RIS- (May 19, 2018)  In a day with more starts and stops than rush hour traffic on the Dan Ryan in Chicago, Bump Day qualifications are complete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 102nd running of the Indy 500.

The day started with threats of rain, and delivered on those threats. Two rain delays broke up the full 35-car qualifying order - the first following #22 Simon Pagenaud’s qualifying run, the second as #6 rookie Robert Wickens was starting his run.

When the rain ended and the track was dry, the overcast and dry air was gone, and full-sun and humid conditions were the result.

When the checkered flag fell at day’s end, the Fast Nine was set for tomorrow afternoon’s pole position shootout.

The Fast Nine consist of Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Spencer Pigot, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, and Danica Patrick.

Meanwhile, in the first bumping to take place for the 500 in seven years, the losers were #63 Pippa Mann  and #5 James Hinchcliffe.


- The Closing Hour -

As Ed Carpenter’s #20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy threatened to take the day’s fastest speed, easily in the Fast Nine, he bumped the #17 United States Air Force entry of Conor Daly, fielded by Thom Burns and Dale Coyne.

Only one car remained to qualify - the #64 of Oriol Servia for Scuderia Corsa / Rahal Letterman Lanigan. Servia had waved off a lap before the first rain of the day, but struggled to find speed. A run after Daly’s bump failed to reach qualifying speed, and was waved off by the race director.

Pippa Mann’s #63 Dale Coyne entry was on the bubble.

Daly then re-presented at the qualifying line, and bumped his way back into the field.

Jack Harvey Meyer-Shank / Schmidt Peterson team withdrew his #60, already in the field at 225.233. His run in the warm of the day improved to a four-lap average of 225.720.

Andretti Autosport withdrew Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 13th position 226.916 in hopes of moving into the Fast Nine, but wound up back in 13th with a slightly faster 226.952.

Oriol Servia’s back - and successfully has a four-lap run of 225.007. Conor Daly is bumped again.

Already just in the Fast Nine in 9th place, but clearly wanting an insurance position or two, Scott Dixon’s #9 PNC Bank Honda was pulled from the field. The 2008 Indy 500 winner requalified in 8th position.

Conor Daly re-presents in the qualifying line, and white-knuckles an average of 224.874, bumping the #5 Schmidt-Peterson Arrow Honda of Mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe.

Dale Coyne Racing’s #63 is back. Pippa Mann rolls out, but three laps in with an average of 223.656 just wasn’t enough.

Hinchcliffe presents back in the fast lane, and while warming up experiences a “very, very, very, very bad vibration”. Though Hinchcliffe felt the vibration was going away, his team waved off the attempt, and the popular Canadian returned to the pits.
Graham Rahal - the day’s fastest practicer last Thursday - had already qualified 30th at 225.407, but the Rahal program felt it wise to pull the speed, and re-qualify. The result? 225.407. Absolutely no change in speed or position.

Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, 2016 Indy 500 winner and already in this year’s field at 226.212 (16th overall) heads back out to improve his chances. The gamble almost paid off. He emerged 10th fastest, and Danica Patrick avoids being bumped out of the Fast Nine. (Drivers must beat a 227.610 average.)

James Davison is the man on the bubble at 224.798 mph.

Pippa Mann beats Hinchcliffe to the line, but her speed in the qualifying line doesn’t translate on-track. 223.343 fails to make the show.

James Hinchcliffe, however, does not - to the shock of practically everyone on his team and many in the stands. The man currently fifth in IndyCar Series points fails to make the Big Show due to a tire vibration.

That said, the Deus ex machina of “Last Chance Qualifying”, at the discretion of INDYCAR, may decide to bend rules.

As it stands, with 35 entries for 33 positions in the 2018 Indianapolis 500, two drivers would fail to make the show. They are James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann.

The question for tonight: Will Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports remove one of their other drivers and put Hinchcliffe in the car, starting from the back of the field on Race Day? Robert Wickens in the #6 is likely safe, but Schmidt-Peterson has arrangements with AFS Racing (Jay Howard in the #7 at 226.098) and Meyer Shank Racing (Jack Harvey in the #60 at 225.720). Are they safe/

Stay tuned.

Tom Beeler

Tom has been a contributor to RIS since 1992. He was invited to join the staff as a full-time reporter/editor in 1995, and has covered IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to his RIS work, Tom has been a contributor for General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and the ACO.

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Volume 2018, Issue 5, Posted 6:13 PM, 05.19.2018