INDIANAPOLIS – James Hinchcliffe, who was nearly killed in a crash while practicing for the 2015 Indianapolis 500 and then won the pole the very next year, experienced another setback Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Hinchcliffe failed to make the field for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 in the first real Bump Day for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing since 2011.
Pippa Mann was the second driver that did not qualify into the field of 33 on Saturday.
There was bumping in 2015, but that year only had 34 cars entered. This time, Bump Day exceeded that in drama because some big names were struggling to get up to speed.
Unfortunately, one of those big names ended up being Hinchcliffe.
His first qualification speed of 224.784 mph in the No. 5 ARROW Electronics Honda was too slow. He was ready to make one last attempt to bump his way back into the race, but was still in line when the gun was fired at 5:50 p.m. ET to end qualifications.
Mann was still on track when the session concluded. She made three attempts to get into the field and some believed she didn’t allow Hinchcliffe an opportunity to make one last run.
Afterwards, Hinchcliffe defended the female driver from England.
“I just want to first start off by saying, I haven’t been on the Internet or heard anything myself, but (I’ve) heard some stuff from other people,” Hinchcliffe said. “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 and called it in,” Hinchcliffe added. “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.”
Hinchcliffe and his SPM team later diagnosed the vibration as a failed tire pressure sensor.
He admitted that it was better to abort the run rather than risk a blown tire and crash.
“It worked out timing-wise for us to have another shot, but there were just not enough seconds in the day to get our last run in,” Hinchcliffe said. “For sure, the car had speed to be in the show. I mean, we were not the fastest car by any stretch this month, but we weren’t expecting that.
“I’m bummed for all the guys on the team. Everybody worked so hard. This race means so much to every single one of us that works in the paddock; it’s not unique to our team by any stretch. But there’s a pretty bummed attitude back in the garage at the moment. We’re a strong group though. This track has done worse to me in the past, and we came back swinging, so we’ll be fine.”