By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
INDIANAPOLIS – It was the drama everyone missed, but it wasn’t the outcome expected as the return of Bump Day for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 claimed James Hinchcliffe.
The 31-year-old Canadian, who is currently fifth in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, was knocked out of the field of 33 with 18 minutes remaining in the session. He went out for a second attempt, but a vibration on the warm-up lap drew concern and returned to the pits with 11 minutes remaining. From there, he could only watch the time trickle down as Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal and Pippa Mann dwindled the time down with their next attempts.
Hinchcliffe was next in line to go but the firing of the gun with Mann out on track signaled the end of the day’s activities, leaving him on the outside looking in.
“The track kept getting a little bit quicker, so we were pretty optimistic, to be honest,” said Hinchcliffe.
“As soon as I left pit lane, I felt a horrible vibration. Called it in. 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.
“Came in, we have since diagnosed a tire pressure sensor failure, kind of broke off the rim, was rattling around inside the car, which at 200 plus miles an hour doesn’t feel good. I think we had to come in. If we had to stay out, good chance we would have gotten tire failure, you would not be in the show, have a broken racecar.
The incident was the latest in a roller coaster of events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, who was injured in a practice crash in 2014 that sidelined him for the rest of the season before coming back and winning the pole for the 100th Running of the Indy 500 the next year.
“It worked out timing-wise, not enough seconds in the day to get our last run in,” added Hinchcliffe. “For sure the car had speed to be in the show. I mean, not the fastest car by any stretch this month, but we weren’t expecting that. But certainly enough to be comfortable in the show.
“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, not unique to our team by any stretch. Pretty bummed attitude back in the garage at the moment. But we’re a strong group.
“This track, believe it or not, has done worse to me in the past, and we came back swinging, so we’ll be fine.”
In 2011, Ryan-Hunter-Reay was bumped by Andretti Autosport’s teammate Marco Andretti with 55 seconds left, which left the team working out a deal with AJ Foyt Racing to get back into the field.
The opportunity for Hinchcliffe to go the same route for the May 27 race is something that may be possible, but unknown to this point.
“I mean, I’m here to race at the end of the day. I work for Sam and Rick. Whatever Sam and Rick tell me to do I’ll do. I believe there’s some options being investigated. At this point I don’t know any more than you do.”