INDIANAPOLIS – Congrats tradition. You win. Due to 35 drivers showing up to qualify for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/ABC/INDYCAR Radio Network) two drivers were sent packing, or maybe not packing depending on some deals, once the gun fired at 5:50 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon. While cases could be made to let all 35 cars start this year, those never came to fruition and James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann failed to qualify for the May 27 race.
In wake of that, many questions were brought up in the aftermath. How did a driver of Hinchcliffe’s caliber fail to qualify? Why were a couple of cars well into the field requalifying? Can Hinch and/or Mann buy their ways back into the field? Why did we end at 5:50 p.m. ET and not 6 like in the past? Why did we not extend the day past schedule since it rained?
Well, lets answer them all here.
First off, lets set the scene. Hinchcliffe was bumped then had a chance to requalify. Unfortunately, he had a bad tire vibration, the right side tire in which he told me, and had to come back down pit road. They’d change the tires and put him back in line, but unfortunately, he never got another shot. Graham Rahal requalified. Alexander Rossi went. Then came Pippa Mann. Hinch, well he didn’t have enough time to get back out.
“As soon as I left pit lane, I felt a horrible vibration,” said a dejected Hinchcliffe. “Called it in. Weirdly, it started to go away. I thought I had some pickup on my tires or something. I called into the team, I think it’s all right, I’m going to keep going. Turn three, it all came back again. It was violent.
“Came in, we have since diagnosed a tire pressure sensor failure, kind of broke off the rim, was rattling around inside the car, which at 200 plus miles an hour doesn’t feel good. I think we had to come in. If we had to stay out, good chance we would have gotten tire failure, you would not be in the show, have a broken racecar.
“It worked out timing-wise, not enough seconds in the day to get our last run in. For sure the car had speed to be in the show. I mean, not the fastest car by any stretch this month, but we weren’t expecting that. But certainly enough to be comfortable in the show.”
That’s Indy 500 Bump Day drama there. It happens. But, on the internet, fans are blowing up blaming Rahal, Rossi and even Mann. Hinchcliffe says stop right there. It’s not anyones fault. Even other drivers said so too. It’s the nature of this beast and its format. Rossi and Rahal were trying to improve their times. Rossi was looking to get into the Fast Nine. Rahal, his was questionable, but he had reason to try. Mann, well she was on the outside looking in, so she had reason to be on track too.
“I just want to first start off by saying, I haven’t been on the Internet, heard anything myself, but heard some stuff from other people,” Hinchcliffe said about the situation. “This is in no way Pippa Mann’s fault. This is our fault. If there’s anybody out there that has anything bad to say about that, you don’t know motorsports. Keep your mouth shut.”
Hinchcliffe thought that the day ended at 6 p.m. ET like normal. He was sitting in his car with a clock and wasn’t worried until they told him to get out. So, that raised the other question, why did Bump Day end 10 minutes earlier than normal. The answer to that is logical too.
“Personally I thought it was 6,” said Hinchcliffe. “I guess a few years ago it changed to 5:50 for TV. They got their drama. So that worked.”
Doug Boles, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway told me that the decision was just that, for TV. He has good reason too.
“The idea behind it was that first off all for seven hours of qualifying if the day is good, that’s plenty of amount of time where 10 minutes at the end shouldn’t matter,” said Boles. “Second of all, ending at 5:50, it gives the ABC folks to recap the day and set up tomorrow which helps continue the drama throughout the weekend.”
Jay Frye agreed with his assessment too. Both also backed the reasoning to not extend qualifying due to delays. They said that everyone got multiple attempts still and that had they extended it, there still would have been complaining.
“That’s one of those ones that you’re never going to win,” Boles said on if there were any talks of an extension of time. “If you go past 5:50, then someone else could get bumped and complain that we went later than schedule. The teams have known all along that 5:50 is when we were ending. It’s a tricky spot for INDYCAR sure to make that call, because if they move it and James gets in then someone else is complaining about it. So, they best thing they can do is just say this is the rule and leave it where it is and that’s the way it played out.”
Frye also agreed too.
“I thought with all the delays we had and still was able to give everybody one attempt and still have an hour left to do that process that all in all everything went like it should,” said Frye. “It’s in the rules and you try to follow the rulebook the best you could. Everybody got a lot of attempts there so that was important.”
In the end, a full time driver is bumped out. But, the rules state that he not only could work out a deal with someone else, most notably Jay Howard a teammate of his not going for points and even qualify the No. 7 Honda and start where he qualifies.
So, this drama could be far from over. Imagine if a non qualified driver ends up qualifying another car after he was a DNQ and starts 10th?