Once again I was blessed to be able to spend the weekend in Indy and once again there was a 30 degree difference in the temperature between the Chicago suburbs and Indianapolis. My cousin Randy and I set out early for Bumb day and arrived at the track around noon, just about the same time as the rain. That actually worked perfect for us because it didn’t rain too hard and then gave us time to walk past the garages, meet up with Lisa and find our way to our seats after grabbing some tenderloin sandwiches. We enjoyed our lunch and waited for the green flag. Once the green flag waved things progressed pretty much as we figured. No major surprises and just a fun day watching qualifying. Another small sprinkle stopped the action again but it was a much shorter delay and we were back out to qualifying. After everyone had gone out we weren’t too surprised in the order, sure a couple drivers were a bit farther back than you thought they’d be but no huge surprises. Rahal was pretty low and Hinchcliffe was in 32nd position. Oriol Servia and Conor Daly were on the outside looking in. Eventually Servia and Daly were able to bump their way in and it was James Davison on the bubble with Pippa Mann and James Hinchcliffe trying to get back in. When Hinch went out to bump his way back in I sat back in my seat. After sitting on the edge watching Servia and Daly I was not even a bit worried that Hinch would struggle. He had a fast car and tons of experience. He would knock out Davidson and that would stink for AJ’s team but it is what it is. James went out though and instead of bumping his way in he had a wicked tire vibration and came back in to the pits without even taking the green flag. Ok now things got interesting because qualifying was ending at 5:50 due to the tv window and Pippa was also trying to bump back in. As the two cars went through tech Alexander Rossi was able to go out in his attempt to bump into the top 9. He ended up in 10th. With approximately two and a half minutes Pippa went out and u less she waved off James would not be given another chance to bump in. Pippa did not wave off nor did she make the field. The time ran out and James and Pippa were left on the outside looking in. If you thought that was the dramatic part just wait as the speculation and accusations started flying.
So many were mad at Pippa and Dale Coyne Racing for not allowing James to go ahead of them. Others insisted James would be able to buy his way into the field. Let’s look at both those.
Pippa- She has never been overly fast or have amazing finishes but she can hold her own and is an amazing ambassador for IndyCar. She works her butt off to get sponsors and find a ride for the 500. It’s her whole year wrapped into one day. In a lot of ways she needed to make the field more than James did. She was first in line and had an opportunity to attempt qualifying. It’s safe to say most thought she would t make it but she had to try. I don’t blame her or Dale Coyne Racing for going for it. That is what Racing is all about. They did exactly what they needed to do. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for them.
James- He had a car and a team to be in the field. They just simply ran out of time. It was unfortunate that the tire vibration happened when it did but it is what is is. Many thought James would find a landing spot in another car. I heard rumors about Jay Howard being out first and it seemed to make sense but quickly that was dismissed and Zachary Claman De Melo was next on the list. I even heard that Honda was willing to pay a large price to Coyne to get Hinch in that seat but again the rumors moved on. Lastly it sounded like it might be Conor Daly giving up his seat and that by doing so he would possibly be guaranteed a couple rides through the 2018 season in addition to a guarantee for the 2019 Indy 500. At the end of the day Monday none of these has happened and it really looks like Hinch will be on the sidelines for the 500.
This absolutely sucks for James and his fans but it could be the best thing for his sponsors. Already the most talked about driver is James. He has been a complete gentleman during all this, defending Pippa, the Speedway and IndyCar rules. With all eyes on him it is a great chance to get more publicity for his sponsors and show what a fantastic human being James is. I think he is just going to become even more popular by sitting out this year and next year everyone will be watching and cheering for him. Stinks for this year but will be amazing next year. Ask Stefan Wilson, he was asked to step down for the chance for Fernando Alonso to run. It stinks but here he is a year later and everything is going great. Also I hate that teams and sponsors can buy their way back in. I get it’s a business but I prefer teams not buy their way back in and deal with the cards they were dealt.
So as of the time I’m writing this it looks like James Hinchcliffe will not be in the 102nd running of the Indy 500. It’s sad but I think the right thing. He will overcome this and come back better and more popular than ever. I have no doubt.
We ended our day with dinner at the 1911 grill and a glass of wine at the Foyt Vault. Almost had a chance to talk with Larry Foyt but he ran out. We did get to meet Dave Furst. That was fun. The wine was delightful as was the conversation. Such a fun day.