INDIANAPOLIS — Spectacular speed and grim horror were on full display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Sebastien Bourdais had the two fastest laps of any driver in the Saturday’s first round of qualifications for the 101st Indianapolis 500. But instead of advancing into the Fast Nine Bourdais is at IU Health Methodist Hospital with multiple fractures of his pelvis and a fractured right hip.
He is undergoing surgery on Saturday night.
The four-time Champ Car Series champion was in the midst of what would have been the fastest run of any driver in the session. His first lap in the No. 18 Honda was 231.472 mph. His second was even faster at 231.595 mph as sparks flew from the bottom of his car as it perfectly hit the apex of the four-cornered rectangular oval.
As the crowd roared the announcement of Bourdais’ second-lap, the sound of the impact was so loud it was heard on pit lane.
At 5:29 p.m. Bourdais was on his third qualifying lap and his Honda wiggled in turn two. He corrected it and made hard right front and right side contact with the SAFER Barrier. The car overturned, slid down the track and turned back on its wheels, spinning.
Bourdais’ Honda came to rest at the exit of the corner with heavy damage. The driver was assisted from the car from the Holmatro Safety Team.
He was transported by ground to IU Health Methodist Hospital and was scheduled to undergo surgery to repair his broken pelvis this evening.
While that was a grim reminder of the danger that exists during Indianapolis 500 qualifications, hometown boy Ed Carpenter displayed the flip side to racing at the 2.5-mile oval. The driver who won the pole in 2013 and ’14 laid down his claim to the fast position with a four-lap average of 230.468 mph in a Chevrolet.
Carpenter made his run late in the session and that knocked Japan’s Takuma Sato off the top spot after the Honda driver completed a four-lap average of 230.382 mph for Andretti Autosport.
“It was exciting, a little surprising,” Carpenter said. “I felt like we had a good car all week. I felt like J.R. (Hildebrand, his teammate), myself and Will Power had the most speed in the Chevy camp. Last night when we did our Qual sim, I was falling off a little bit. I thought I could run 230 for a lap or two, but I wasn’t sure if I could run four.
“I thank my 7-year-old son Friday when we were drawing for numbers, he was drawing. I was like, ‘If you could pull, I told him five’ and someone drew five. I was like, ‘Let’s shoot for six.’
“He drew 60.
“I was trying to be positive. Good job, son, you got one number right.
“He was the first person I thanked when I got out of the car because the conditions helped us there.”
Carpenter leads the field into Sunday’s Fast Nine that will culminate the final qualification session with the run for the Indianapolis 500 pole.
“I thought we had speed for the Fast Nine most of the days,” Carpenter said. “Last night I wasn’t so sure, mainly because I wasn’t sure our drop off was going to be good enough. We kept at it. I was here late working last night with my engineers. Even through the afternoon, so… You just got to keep chipping away.
“But the team did a good job. The car was great. The conditions played a factor, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Carpenter’s Chevrolet had some winglets on the rear pod similar to the configuration on Josef Newgarden’s pole-winning Honda in 2016.
“I think every team has their own process, whether it’s the Ganassi guys, Penske or us,” Carpenter said. “We’ve had a lot of continuity in our team. As we’ve gotten older and started to get stronger, our development grows, you build up experience.
“I think part of the reason I was really happy after that run and it doesn’t mean anything yet, we haven’t won anything but a chance to win the pole, but it’s really a credit to the team and all the work they do,” he added. “It’s hard to make cars fast around here. It happens all during the wintertime, preparation coming in.
“So, it’s fun to get runs like that, to be able to give them thanks.”
Scott Dixon’s Honda was on top of the scoring pylon for most of the session after he made an early run after a five-hour delay because of strong storms and track drying procedures at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.