The return of Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway created a result many probably didn’t expect. James Hinchcliffe, the 2016 polesitter who’s currently fifth in the 2018 IndyCar Series points standings, failed to make the grid of 33 cars.
With 35 drivers trying to qualify for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 next weekend, two drivers were ultimately going to be left out. It’s the first time since 2011 that “bumping” has occurred during qualifying. The average speed for the day from the field was 226.644 mph.
The other driver left out? Pippa Mann, one of two women trying to make it into the show. While Hinchcliffe competes as an IndyCar Series regular throughout the season, Mann was looking to make her only IndyCar start this season. Many of the drivers who qualify for the Indy 500 are not series regulars and try to make the race as a one-off attempt. Often, teams will field additional cars for the historic event.
Mann has raced in the past five Indy 500s and also competed in the 2011 race. She was the lone woman to start in last year’s Indy 500, with her best career result finishing 17th.
For Saturday’s qualifying, drivers could make runs throughout the afternoon, running four laps to earn a spot. The drama usually comes in the final 30 minutes or so as drivers on the bubble scramble to make last-minute changes and grab a spot in line to qualify and potentially “bump” each other out.
Hinchcliffe hadn’t been up to speed throughout the afternoon and went out on track with about a dozen minutes on the clock. But Hinchcliffe ended his run early, ducking back into the pits with what IndyCar Radio feed reported as a vibration.
As Hinchcliffe and Mann each had their teams making changes, Mann got back into line before Hinchcliffe to try again. Meanwhile, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi went back on track to try and improve his position and have a shot trying for the pole position. Rossi nearly bumped Danica Patrick from the Fast Nine but he settled for 10th.
Mann was the last car out on the track as the gun went off at 5:50 p.m. ET to signal the end of the session, leaving Hinchcliffe on the outside. Mann also was not fast enough to bump her way into the field.
Hinchcliffe qualified in the middle of row six last year. In 2016, he had quite the comeback story when he took the pole position after his near-fatal practice crash at Indy the year before.
Rain interrupted qualifying earlier in the day, stopping cars from going out after just 10 had made their first qualifying attempts. Things eventually dried out and allowed the drivers to get back on track. Hinchcliffe was the first car back on track after the delay and turned in a 224.784 mph average. He was officially bumped with 20 minutes left in the qualifying session.
The top nine qualifiers from the day will fill out spots 1-9 on Sunday as they all attempt to qualify for the pole position with the Fast Nine Shootout. Among the top qualifiers is three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Patrick, who’s finishing her racing career with this race.
Castroneves was the fastest qualifier Saturday with his four-lap average speed of 228.919 mph for Team Penske. All four Penske cars will be part of the Fast Nine with Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden all averaging 228+ mph on their runs.
Scott Dixon, an Indy winner in 2008, was on the pole for last year’s race and will get another shot this year. He’s still looking for his second Indy 500 victory. Ed Carpenter, who is part owner and part driver for Ed Carpenter Racing, always seems to qualify well in his home state. Carpenter started second last year and he was also second-fastest on Saturday at 228.692 mph.
Sebastian Bourdais, back from his serious crash at Indy last year, was fifth-quickest, and Carpenter’s teammate Spencer Pigot also made the Fast Nine. With Patrick, all three Ed Carpenter Racing cars will have a shot at the pole.
Drivers in spots 10-33 will make one more four-lap attempt on Sunday to determine their official grid order.
Defending Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato ended up 29th with a 225.513 mph four-lap average on Saturday. Matheus Leist was the highest-qualifying rookie in 12th position (227.441 mph).