» BACK TO CRASH.NET

Crash.Net IndyCar News

Indy 500: Bump Day completes 33-car grid

20 May 2012

It has to be admitted: as Bump Days go, this one is not going to feature highly in lists of the most memorable or the most nail-biting.

In previous years, top drivers have been on tenterhooks until the final minutes of the Sunday session waiting to see if they would make it onto the starting grid for that year's Indy 500. Last year saw Ryan Hunter-Reay ejected from the field in the final minutes, leading to the ignominy of his team having to buy him a seat in the car already qualified by Bruno Junqueira. The previous year, Tony Kanaan had come perilously close to finding himself out of luck and out of the race.

But this year there was never going to be any such drama. With 33 drivers competing to get onto the 33-car grid, the mathematics meant that realistically everyone would be lining up for the green flag - provided that they just put in the necessary four timed laps over the weekend. Any times would do: there is no 107% qualifying limit at Indianapolis.

It might sound easy, but three drivers had found out the painful way that making it onto the grid is never actually a slam dunk: Bryan Clauson, Oriol Servia and Ed Carpenter all crashed into the wall on Saturday and had to wait overnight for their cars to be fixed. Any similar slip on the Sunday which put the car out of action again would likely see them miss the race.

None did: all nine drivers duly came out and put in their four timed laps without incident. The first out was Simona de Silvestro, who set a benchmark of 214.393mph (2:47.9162s) in the under-powered Lotus HVM machine.

"It was all right. Not the speed we want for the month, but I think we're in the show, so that's a really good thing," she said afterwards. "We just have to focus on our program with the Lotus engine. We don't have the speed we want, but we've been creeping up to the other manufacturers, so that's a really positive sign."

After that everyone came out in turn with a minimum of fuss and drama and put in their qualifying runs. AJ Foyt Racing's Mike Conway was out next, still annoyed at having missed out on a top 24 spot after his first qualifying time on Pole Day had been disallowed for his car being underweight. His qualifying effort on Sunday saw him post a speed of 222.319mph (2:41.9293s).

"We're in the race ... I would have loved to have put it in the show yesterday, we would have been better off," he said. "We weren't looking to blow the world away with speed today. It was a case of getting in comfortably and not doing anything stupid.

"The car has been very similar all month in terms of handling, it's been very good," he added. "We had a slight boost issue, but it went away."

After that it was Sebastien Bourdais' turn in the Dragon car, and for someone who only got to use his new Chevrolet engine for the first time on Thursday, it was an impressive performance: 223.760mph (2:40.8666s) would have been good enough for 15th place if he'd posted it on Saturday, which would have set him ahead of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti on the starting grid for the race.

"The run was good, I just wish it had been yesterday, and we'd be quite a bit higher up on the grid!" he agreed. "We haven't really changed the car at all. The balance has been good. The speed varied a lot from Saturday, and we can't quite figure out why."

After that it was the turn of his team mate Katherine Legge, who posted an aggregate lap speed of 221.624mph (2:42.4374s) some one and a half seconds off Bourdais - but more importantly, safely on the grid.

"It's definitely a massive relief after the week or two that we've had!" the English racer said. "We basically qualified our race car. We haven't had time on track to work on qualifying setup or anything like that, so we needed to find a car that was easy to drive at this stage.

"I am a rookie, and the team did a good job of giving me a very solid, very stable race car," she added. "I'm pretty sure that it's very close to the car that we will race."

Next up was the first of the three drivers who had crashed on Pole Day, Oriol Servia in the Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold car. This time there were no fireworks and he posted a qualifying speed of 222.393mph (2:41.8754s).

"We just wanted to make sure we had a solid effort to get it into the race. Obviously, to win the race, you have to be in it first. We wanted to accomplish that," said Servia, who last year qualified on the front row of the grid with Newman/Haas. But he didn't think he was at much of a disadvantage with his position this year toward the back of the grid.

"Probably more than any other race, the guy that's on pole doesn't win it," he said. "We would prefer to start on the front row like last year - it makes your race a lot easier, especially the first half - but we're going to make it interesting. We're going to start at the back and move forward."

Wade Cunningham was next up with a lap speed of 223.258mph (2:41.2484s) more than enough to get the job done.

"We are safely in the field, and we can start working on race setup ... It was nice to go out and get in the field," he said. But he was still irked at having been bumped from the top 24 late on Pole Day. "It's disappointing because, from my side, instead of doing the maximum, we're basically doing the minimum to get in, and that's not how I enjoy racing. We didn't come here to be field-fillers."

Talking of field-fillers ... No, that's unkind. Jean Alesi might only have posted a sluggish 210.094mph (2:51.3516s) but that was hardly representative of the Fan Force United's real potential, even with the high profile problems being experienced by the Lotus engine at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It simply did the job with the minimum of risk.

"It's a big relief for me to finally get into this race," said the former Ferrari F1 driver. "We've had all week to work on it, and obviously we now have the car in the race.

"I'm glad, but I really was expecting more speed from the car," he admitted. "That was all we could get, and we took it. We have to work now on the race situation," he said. adding: "I have learned more in one week here than I did in my entire F1 career."

Next up was Bryan Clauson, who like Servia had crashed on Saturday. The shoestring Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team had worked through the night to repair the extensive damage to the #39 to give the USAC National Drivers champion a second shot at making his first Indy 500. The crew had even left a Band-Aid on the repaired sidepod as a momento; fortunately the IZOD IndyCar officials didn't deem it an aerodynamic aid.

"That's what got them through the night, I guess, knowing that when I walked in in the morning I was going to see that and laugh," said Clauson.

"It kind of snuck up on us yesterday," he said of the previous day's accident. "The car had been comfortable the whole run. If you would have stopped me at the flag stand on the third lap, I probably wouldn't have changed a thing. It just got away from us there in Turn 1 and kind of put us in a little bit of a bind."

He'd been running well into the 223mph speeds when he crashed, so a terminally safe Bump Day effort of 214.455mph (2:47.6671s) was by contrast rather underwhelming, for Clauson as much as anyone else.

"Obviously when you have a run like we did yesterday [and then] come back today and go run that, you're not excited," he admitted. "It's a product of just needing to get four laps in and putting something that was safe on the car and making sure we didn't have another incident like we did yesterday."

Clauson's qualifying run was eight of the nine yet to make it onto the grid. That left Ed Carpenter, the man who'd done the most damage to his car in a Pole Day crash. It was so bad, the team needed to activate the backup car and needed a little more time to get ready, so the track was turned over to anyone on pit road who wanted to have some practice time. Finally, 45 minutes later at just before 2pm, Carpenter was ready for his run - and went out and put in a perfectly decent 222.324mph (2:41.9262s) effort in the resurrected #20T.

"The whole month hasn't gone as you script them," admitted the owner-driver. "I think I've been lucky for quite a few years to have a pretty seamless month of May. You never know with Indianapolis, when it is going to decide it's your turn for a bad month. Things change quickly around here."

But he was safely on the grid, and that was all that mattered. Everyone was. And since none of the nine could do any better than 25th place, there was no point in doing anything risky, like withdrawing the time in order to try improving it a position or two. Qualifying was done for 2012.

That left almost four hours of the six hour session open to the entire field to come out for a ninth consecutive day of practice. It would be the last chance they get before a single hour-long session on Friday to shakedown their brand new race-issue engines, after which next time they would be on track at Indianapolis would be a week from now on Race Day itself.

Charlie Kimball was an early taker for some practice laps: a few minutes later, he was really wishing he hadn't. In a repeat of the accident that had put Ed Carpenter into the wall on Pole Day, Kimball found himself spinning out of turn 1 and into the SAFER barrier. Like Carpenter, the car tipped up briefly onto its left side: experts were quickly debating whether this apparent tendency to tip over was a problem with the new Dallara DW12 chassis, or whether it was vindication of the new sidepods stopping it from flipping over totally upside down.

Whatever the nuances, Kimball was left embarrassed - and his Ganassi team with a lot of work on their hands.

"It's really disappointing to go out today and crash the car. Fortunately, the chassis is OK, and the guys have plenty of time and are well into fixing it already," said Kimball, who was quickly evaluated and released by the infield medical care centre.

"I just feel bad for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew because we have been having a very good month," he added. "We still have a really good race car, and I just made a mistake. I learned my lesson, and we'll go out and have a really good race next weekend."

Kimball's accident was a sobering reminder to everyone that while qualifying was over and the grid was set, Indianapolis still had teeth with which to bite the unwary. Everyone took it rather more cautiously after that, and there were no further incidents for the remaining practice time.

The chequered came out at 6pm, and that was it: the weekend was done. There would be no more track activity at IMS until Thursday, when the Firestone Indy Lights teams start practice and qualifying for the Firestone Freedom 100.

See Bump Day qualifying times.
The practice times from Sunday are also available.
Or click here for the full starting grid of the 2012 Indianapolis 500.


» BACK TO CRASH.NET