James Hinchcliffe fails to qualify for Indy 500
Canadian driver could still compete in race
James Hinchcliffe made one thing perfectly clear Saturday.
Only he and his team are to blame for missing the Indianapolis 500. Not Pippa Mann.
Two rain delays, poor timing and a loose tire pressure sensor late in the afternoon didn't help, either.
After watching time run out on qualifying as he sat anxiously in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 5 car, the popular Canadian driver collected his thoughts, walked into the media centre and quickly accepted responsibility for the surprise conclusion to Bump Day's return at the speedway.
"I just want to first start off by saying, I haven't been on the internet, heard anything myself, but I've heard some stuff from other people. This is in no way Pippa Mann's fault," Hinchcliffe said, who was trying to requalify as he waited. "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, a native of Oakville, Ont., may not be completely out of luck anyway.
The team's other two drivers — Canadian rookie Robert Wickens and British veteran Jay Howard — did qualify for the 33-car field. Wickens is a full-time IndyCar driver, Howard is not and with Hinchcliffe fifth in the points, team owner Sam Schmidt could make a driver change.
It wouldn't be the first time that sort of move has been made, and Hinchcliffe declined to rule it out.
"I work for Sam and Ric. Whatever Sam and Rick tell me to do I'll do," Hinchcliffe said. "I believe there's some options being investigated. At this point I don't know any more than you do."
Regardless of what happens next, the tension-filled bumping made for a dramatic ending to a wild day.
Hinchcliffe and Mann, who was attempting to start her only race this season, became the first IndyCar drivers to make green-flag attempts since 2011 and be left out.
"It's the worst feeling in the world," Mann said. "If we understood what was going on, we wouldn't be here."
Their fates were sealed simultaneously when the gun sounded with Mann, an English driver for Dale Coyne Racing, making one last four-lap run despite being more 1.4 mph slower than James Davison in the 33rd spot. The entire grid will be set on Sunday.
Some thought Mann's decision to stay on the track rather than pulling into the pits prevented Hinchcliffe from qualifying.
But the man who missed the 2015 race because of a life-threatening injury acknowledged there were far more problems than Mann including his own mistaken thought that qualifying ended 10 minutes later than it actually did.
"There were so many things that stacked up against us today and that's the nature of the beast. That's Indy," Hinchcliffe said. "Everyone got to run."
Luck, weather working against Hinchcliffe
The team also was victimized by bad luck.
Hinchcliffe was the first driver out after a 2-hour, 20-minute rain delay that changed the conditions on Indy's 2.5-mile oval. His four-lap average of 224.784 mph was far slower than anyone anticipated and with a long line of drivers waiting to get through the qualifying line and another 51-minute rain delay, nobody got a second chance until the final hour.
Even then, things went awry.
As Hinchcliffe's car sat in the second qualifying lane, the one designated for cars attempting to improve their time without withdrawing their speed, Conor Daly knocked bumped him from the race. His team then scrambled to push him to the front of the first lane, those designated for cars withdrawing times or no time, to go first.
And when he finally did get on the track, a vibration forced him right back to the pits. It turned out to be the tire pressure sensor, and Hinchcliffe never got another shot.
"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. Thirty-three cars start, that's the deal. It always has been," Hinchcliffe said. "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."