The field is now set for next Sunday’s 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Bump Day at Indianapolis used to be about multiple teams going home and last minute deals being put together. In recent years it became a glorified practice day with only 33 drivers competing for the 33 spots.
While it was nothing like what we’ve seen in the past, we still had some bumping to do today — sort of. With the official announcement yesterday of Katherine Legge’s signing with Sam Schmidt, we had ten drivers gunning for nine positions in the biggest race in the world.
The morning started out with a fog and cool temperatures. Before practice, the cars of Ed Carpenter, Carlos Muñoz, and Marco Andretti were taken down to turn 1 where the official front row pictures were taken. Carpenter then had his pictures taken for capturing the pole for next Sunday’s 500-mile race.
The one-hour practice session that began at 9 AM saw some drivers putting up some decent speeds. One of those drivers was Legge, who made it onto the track for the first time this year. She was consistently turning laps at over 223 mph during the practice. She spoke with AJ Allmendinger when practice concluded, and she said she felt comfortable inside the car.
Qualifying began at noon with all the cars lined up — except for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Michel Jourdain, Jr., who still hadn’t gone through tech inspection. Everyone else made their qualifying runs, filling the field with 33 cars. Josef Newgarden was the fastest driver on this second day of qualifications with Graham Rahal and Sebastian Saavedra just behind him.
At one point, Rahal took Jourdain’s car out for some practice laps to try to give the team an idea of what they needed to do to get it up to speed.
Both Newgarden and Rahal had a four-lap qualifying average speed above 225 mph, and both cars were powered by new engines. They, along with Ganassi teammates Dario Franchitti and Charlie Kimball, will serve a 10-spot grid penalty for the first doubleheader race in Detroit because of their unapproved engine changes.
We expected to have some bumping, but it never materialized. There were question marks surrounding the RLL camp as they couldn’t find the speed for Jourdain’s car. Graham couldn’t figure it out, either, and the team was left scratching their heads. They were about 7 mph slower than Legge’s qualifying speed. With about 15 minutes left before the gun fired to signal the end of qualifying, Jourdain climbed out of his car without making a qualifying attempt.
So, the field is set for next Sunday’s race, and Jourdain is headed home. I suspect Las Vegas will put Marco Andretti as the favorite to win, but we all know this race is wide open. The talent is deep, and there are about 14 or 15 drivers who could realistically win this race — but at the end of the day, only one driver can drink the milk on Sunday.
After nine straight days of activity, the Speedway will now get a rest until later this week. Final practice for the IZOD IndyCar Series is scheduled for 11 AM on Friday, which is Carb Day at the track. The public gates will open at 5:33 AM on Sunday with driver introductions set for 11:33 AM. The green flag will wave at 12:12 PM for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Thanks very much to everyone who followed my practice week updates. My ongoing commentary can be found on Twitter at @IndyCarChad and right here at MoreFrontWing.com.