CASTRONEVES, HINCH & MANN – BUMPING HIGHS AND LOWS

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

At the end of a long Pole Day, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest at 228.919 mph. He was only challenged once – by local driver, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. And Carpenter was the last driver to make a first run.

When the 50-minute Happy Hour was done, the top nine drivers were Castroneves, Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Cherolet, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Spencer Pigot/No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Danica Patrick/No.13 Go Daddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet – the Fastest Female.

Simon Pagenaud

Sebastien Bourdais

Spencer Pigot

Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon

Danica Patrick

LEFT TO RIGHT: Simon Pagenaud; Sebastien Bourdais; Spencer Pigot; Josef Newgarden; Scott Dixon; and Danica Patrick. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

The top Rookie was Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet, who was twelfth fastest.

Carlos Munoz/No.29 Ruoff Home Mortgage Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest one-off driver, coming in fifteenth.

The last driver on the grid was James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet.

At the other end of the spectrum, time ran out – literally – for Pippa Mann/No.63 Donate Life Dale Coyne Racing Honda and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrows Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. They failed to make the show.

Matheus Leist

Carlos Munoz

James Davison

LEFT TO RIGHT: Matheus Leist; Carlos Munoz; and James Davison. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Helio Castroneves. Photo byPablo Matamoros.

Helio Castroneves. Photo byPablo Matamoros.

Castroneves said “When I saw the 229, I thought it was 228. I had to compose myself. It’s amazing how the car became so sensitive by the last lap. You don’t want to do anything too aggressive. I think I can do a 230 tomorrow. It will be a tough 500 race for the drivers, but an exciting race for the fans.”

On bumping, he said “It’s tough but that’s why this race is so important.”

Ed Carpenter's No.20 Chevrolet

Ed Carpenter’s No.20 Chevrolet

Carpenter said “Being the last car to go in the regular line, you get to see a lot of people go, see what people are doing, some of their struggles. I was really just trying to do the best I could to have the best four laps, which I had too big of a spread over my four laps. Hopefully we can get that rectified tomorrow or at least be in more similar conditions to everyone else in the Shootout. It’s definitely going to be fun. I haven’t been a part of this format in the past. It is a lot of fun.

“I think in a lot of ways today is the most pressure because you’ve got to get in there today. There’s a lot less pressure and risk tomorrow in a lot of ways, knowing there’s 35 cars here this year, when you’re putting in a lot out there to get in the Fast Nine, you’re also putting yourself in a position to maybe not be a part of this race, which you also don’t want to do. It’s really tough.

“You’re trying to find that balance. So tomorrow should just be a fun day to have all three of our cars.

On bumping, Carpenter said “I’m a traditionalist. While I really feel for them (that didn’t make the field), it’s part of the lore of Indianapolis. It’s happened to great teams.”

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud said “I’m super excited we managed to get into the Fast Nine, especially towards the end of tomorrow where the track is going to be the best. Ed just had a super fast lap at the end there, super impressive. Helio, myself, Josef, Will, we all have good cars at Team Penske. A pretty good sign for tomorrow. It’s been a great day. What an emotional day.”

Patrick said “I have high expectations for doing well here. That’s why I was fortunate enough to be able to drive for Ed. They always have great cars, especially here at Indy. They’re always very strong. But to think that I was going to come back and be in the Fast Nine right off the bat. I mean, I’m going to tell you, I was doing 208 at the test the first day and thought, I might not be able to do this. 228 is much better.”

All 35 cars had a at least one run by Happy Hour. Thirty-four had qualified and one – Oriol Servia/No.64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – waived off.

The qualifying session, starting on time at 11am with ambient temperature at 72 degrees F and 84 percent humidity.Track temperature was 99 degrees F. The afternoon was punctuated by two cautions, one at 11:52pm for 79 minutes and the second starting at 3:14pm, lasting for 54 minutes. When qualifying resumed, it was 79 degrees F with 68 percent humidity. Track temperature was 99 degrees F.

At 4:55pm, Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet became the thirty-third car to qualify; and the bumping began with Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet the last driver to attempt a run. And he went straight to the top…albeit briefly, before settling for second, bumping Conor Daly/No.17 United States Air Force Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Oriol Servia. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Oriol Servia. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Servia then tried again, but the Race Director waived him off as his speeds weren’t faster than 220 mph. Then Daly tried again, and bumped teammate, Pippa Mann/No.63 Donate Life Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda, who had qualified thirtieth, went for another run from Lane No.2, meaning if he was slower, he keeps his fastest time. There was no one was in Lane No.1. He withdrew that attempt and kept his P30 time. Next up was Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who tried to better his P13 time, but he retired his attempt.

Servia tried again for the third time, from Lane No.1, and qualified thirty-first. Then Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing tried to better his P9 slot, and moved up to P8.

Conor Daly. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Conor Daly. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Daly then made his third attempt. Team owner, Dale Coyne, felt he had time to make two more attempts for Daly and Mann, to get back into the field. Daly bumped into P32, bumping out James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrows Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Mann then made her second attempt, which her owner then waived off. This put Davison on the bubble and Hinchcliffe made his second attempt, from Lane No.1. But he felt “a wicked vibration” and didn’t take the Green Flag. He said later that the team found a tire pressure sensor rattling around in the tire.

Rahal then attempted to improve his P30 position, from Lane 2, but didn’t improve. Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda ran again and improved to P10. Mann made her third attempt. She didn’t make it, the clock ran out, Checkered Flag and she did not make the field.

James Davison

Davison met with the media, as the last qualifying driver. “Obviously it’s been a stressful 24 hours. Yesterday I guess is the kind of Bump Day simulation for everyone. Everyone is doing qualifying sims. On the no tow speeds, we were at risk. We acted accordingly. We had to try to go quicker. In doing so, we found ourselves going over the limit, ending up having a big accident which was the biggest in my career.

It was actually very painful. Initially I got out of the car and I could feel I bumped my leg. Once I got in the safety truck, it was excruciating pain for 10 minutes. Overnight found out where else I hurt myself in various other places, my foot, my ribs, my thigh.It was the biggest crash of my career. I’m a soldier. I kind of tough it out. I was excited to get back in the car.

Of course, while all this was happening, my crew was working hard all night to get the car turned around. We owe this to them immensely. These crew guys, their job is already tough enough. When something happens like that, yeah, it’s even tougher for them.

It was an incredible 24 hours, something that I think all of us on the team didn’t expect that we were going to place. It’s a life experience, making it into the Indy 500, actually earning it. The three times I’ve done this race, there were 33 cars and 24 teams. I didn’t qualify in 2015 and ’17 due to the circumstances that were around, but I started this race. This time we had to earn it in there.

Yeah, as stressful as it was, it’s something that I think we’ll all go to our graves with, kind of be pleased in a way that we experienced it.”

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Hinchcliffe met with the media post-qualifying, and refused to play the blame game. “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. 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.

“The track kept getting a little bit quicker, so we were pretty optimistic, to be honest. As soon as I left pit lane, I felt a horrible vibration. 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 race car.

James Hinchcliffe

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. Personally I thought it was 6 (Checkered Flag.) I guess a few years ago it changed to 5:50 for TV. They got their drama. So that worked. But, yeah, I mean, Pippa and I were both running to get back into Lane 1 there. I mean, man, you can play Monday morning quarterback all you want, try to look at things that could have been done differently, decisions made my certain people to maybe help the cause. They weren’t.

Regarding other options, such as purchasing a car from another owner as has been done in the past. “I mean, I’m here to race at the end of the day. I work for Sam and Rick. Whatever Sam and Rick tell me to do I’ll do. I believe there’s some options being investigated. At this point I don’t know any more than you do.

At the end of the day everybody got a run, which is the rule. Our run wasn’t good enough, so… Blame the weather, blame other cars in line, you can blame whatever you want, but just didn’t happen today.

We win as a team; we lose as a team. It’s crazy to be here after where we were two years ago (on pole.) But we’ll put our heads down, we’ll take a look at it, and we’ll learn from this experience. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, for sure. I’m disappointed. The Arrow car is fast enough to be in the show, no doubt about it. We’ve got one of the best crews on pit lane. It’s a big blow, for sure.”

On Bumping-“Everybody has been hoping for a Bump Day since 2012. It’s part of the tradition of this race, the excitement of about this race. 33 cars start, that’s the deal. It always has been. Barring extenuating circumstances, I’m all for it. It sucks to be sitting up here saying that at this point. The purist in me, the motorsport enthusiast in me thinks this is good for the sport. That’s more important than what’s good for James Hinchcliffe today, so…”

Pippa Mann

Pippa Mann

Mann met with the media post-qualifying. For me it was painful to listen. She was in a world of hurt.

“Coming into this May, I knew things were going to be tough. I normally get time in an IndyCar once a year. With a new aero package, not getting to do any of the testing ahead of time because we don’t have a budget that allows for that. All of the people who have supported me to be here, Dale Coyne Racing, the entire crew on my car, worked so hard to turn that car over from a road course car to an oval car so we could shake it down, get me through my refresher on Tuesday.

Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll be honest with you, we thought things were going pretty well. The car handled great. It was really good. It was pretty good in traffic. We thought things were rolling along pretty nicely. The no tow reports, they looked fine.

Then yesterday morning, I rolled out, 226 out of the box. Great, this isn’t bad. Now let’s trim the car. Went through it again, nothing. That’s when we started to realize we might really be in trouble. We tried everything we could think of yesterday. The boys stayed really, really late last night. We pulled the rack off the car, we resanded the car, resanded the floor. We went through all the brakes again because we thought we had some brakes that were dragging a little bit out.

I knew if everything we did last night still hadn’t made us go faster, we were going to be in trouble today. But you have to try and get out there anyway. When we got back in line for the last run, we took every single trim we could possibly could to the racecar, we did everything.

Obviously it wasn’t enough. What’s worse, it was slower than our time before. Once you pulled your time, if the car is still functioning, you kind of have to finish the run because what if somebody in front of me just didn’t get through tech and I withdrew and didn’t complete my run and pulled off the racetrack?

It’s the worst feeling in the world. The team worked so hard. Earlier today I really thought we were going to get it done. Then we went out, again, for the first run and I knew we were in the fight in final trim. We took it further than any of our cars have gone. Big stats.

If we understood what was going on, we wouldn’t be here.”

Qualifying Queue. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Qualifying Queue. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Early on in the day, the question was: Which would come faster on Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – a full 102nd Indy 500 field or rain delay for qualifying? Saturday morning the schedule started out on a rain delay, to dry the track from Friday night’s heavy rainfall. At least it held off until the end of Friday’s Happy Hour. But by the time the Qualifying Draw was completed, the rain came – and hard for a couple of hours. Saturday’s morning practice was delayed and rescheduled due to track drying efforts.

The Qualifying Draw was broken into two Groups, with each group getting an equal amount of track time with a guaranteed amount of green flag time. Practice was delayed 45 minutes. The two half hour sessions were reduced to 20 minutes and the half-hour session for all cars was canceled.

Very few cars went out for morning practice. Seven Group 1 cars tried a few laps, and four went out in Group II. The majority of the cars were Chevrolets – eight, with three Hondas. None of the big Honda teams went out. With so few cars almost all were able to get No-Tow laps. Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet did one lap.

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest at 229.505 mph. Second through fifth were Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, JR Hildebrand/No.66 Safeforce Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, Gabby Chaves/No.88 Harding Group Chevrolet, and Sage Karam/No.24 WIX Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet. The top Honda was Servia in sixth.

Davison went out for 14 laps, the most of any driver. He was eighth fastest. His crew worked through the night to put his damaged car together after he hit the wall Friday. He said “The car was back to normal, but the speed is not there. I really need to find a mile per hour.” After the accident, he said “I felt absolutely nothing and then I was backwards. It was not ideal but we had to try something. No regrets there.”

Team co-owner, David Byrd, described all the team had to do to be ready for Saturday morning practice. “We had to rebuild all the left side bodywork. Nose, front wing, rear wing, undertray, suspension, uprights, gearbox; I think that’s everything. Yesterday we crashed around 2 (p.m.). We got the car back to the garage and started collecting parts. It took a while to get all of the parts collected. We went to work on the rebuild around 6:30, 7 in earnest last night. We fired the engine around 1 (a.m.), put the car on the setup pad at 2 (a.m.), and about 4 (a.m.) is when we were really done with the rebuild. We had it in the tech line just before 5 (a.m.). We were the first ones in line for tech. It’s been a long night. All of our guys and gals are working on no sleep, me included. I think we’ve got the right direction today for our setup, and we’ll see how it goes.” (About the process of collecting parts): “Bob (Lazier) came by and offered if we needed something – he said he had a gearbox. We’re a Foyt program, so all the parts came from Foyt, and that’s where we sourced it from – gearbox, uprights, bodywork, everything. That’s the way we work together.” (About this being part of the drama of the month of May): “It wouldn’t be quite as sweet and satisfying if it was drama-free, right?”

Sunday is Armed Forces Day at the Speedway and is the second day of qualifying. All the cars from position 10-33 will have an 45-minute open practice starting at noon ET. The Fast Nine will have their 45-minute practice at 1:15pm ET. The rest of the field will have its qualifying for two hours starting at 2:45pm ET, running in reverse order of Saturday times. The Fast Nine Shootout starts at 5pm ET, single-car runs, in reverse order, for Pole Position. ABC TV will provide live coverage 4-6pm.

UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 2:37.2607 (228.919 mph)
2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 2:37.4167 (228.692)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 2:37.6845 (228.304)
4. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2:37.7604 (228.194)
5. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 2:37.8322 (228.090)
6. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 2:37.8588 (228.052)
7. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 2:37.8608 (228.049)
8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 2:38.0457 (227.782)
9. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 2:38.1654 (227.610)
10. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 2:38.1996 (227.561)
11. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 2:38.2363 (227.508)
12. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 2:38.2826 (227.441)
13. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 2:38.5941 (226.995)
14. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 2:38.6238 (226.952)
15. (29) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 2:38.8702 (226.600)
16. (66) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 2:38.9409 (226.499)
17. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 2:39.1837 (226.154)
18. (7) Jay Howard, Honda, 2:39.2233 (226.098)
19. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 2:39.2459 (226.065)
20. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 2:39.3241 (225.955)
21. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 2:39.3388 (225.934)
22. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 2:39.3561 (225.909)
23. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 2:39.4273 (225.808)
24. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 2:39.4298 (225.805)
25. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 2:39.4673 (225.752)
26. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 2:39.4881 (225.722)
27. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 2:39.4894 (225.720)
28. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 2:39.5275 (225.666)
29. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 2:39.6362 (225.513)
30. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 2:39.7114 (225.407)
31. (64) Oriol Servia, Honda, 2:39.9953 (225.007)
32. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, 2:40.0897 (224.874)
33. (33) James Davison, Chevrolet, 2:40.1439 (224.798)

Did Not Qualify:
34. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 2:40.1547 (224.784)
35. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 2:40.4565 (224.360)

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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