Amid much teeth gnashing, quietly spoken disagreement and silently shattered dreams Bump Day ended with more of a fizzle than a bang. As soon as the qualifying session went green, we saw all nine unqualified machines take to the track and lock themselves into next weekend’s Indy 500. The rest of the day was used as a final practice session that features a single incident; Charlie Kimball shaking hands with the outside wall.
Honestly, I was surprised at how many practice laps were turned once qualifying was completed. Teams took full advantage of the extra time and worked on race setup during the balmy afternoon heat. We saw temperatures in the upper 80’s and with a raceday forecast in the 90’s, today was the closed analog to raceday conditions we have seen all week. If the temp was in the upper 70’s or low 80’s I don’t think we would have seen the same amount of action.
All of the track activity aside, I have been watching bits and pieces of the NBCSN broadcast from the past two days of qualifying. It has been amazing coverage. The rebranded Versus Network has really outdone themselves this year in Indianapolis. They used much of the afternoon downtime to thoroughly interview drivers, mechanics, owners and suppliers to get us a better inside view into the sport. I felt like I was watching more of an Inside Indycar type show than a simple qualifying broadcast. A+ coverage from the network.
Lost in the awesome coverage was the issuing of a number of penalties to various teams for a myriad of infractions. According to the AP’s Jenna Fryer $275,000 worth of fines spread between 13 entries for 18 infractions with $60,000 going to the front row alone. Nothing much more to be said here other than if you ain’t cheating you ain’t winning. The whole point of technical inspection is to insure the competitors are playing by the same rules and it’s every teams god given birthright to skirt the rules as much as physically possible. This was well played by both sides this weekend and INDYCAR let teams know they were not playing any games; once again, a refreshing sentiment.
I did overhear an interesting exchange between officials on Saturday afternoon during the pole shoot out. I was flipping through the scanner and I heard a pit road official ask if teams could use the driver cooling fan to blow air into the sidepods instead of using it for driver cooling. It sounded like they were debating on whether this was in the “spirit” of competition and they quickly told the team to move the fan back to the driver cooling position. Further on the spot inspection of the offending car revealed tape securing radiator blockers, now the officials had found something actually illegal and decided to do post session tech inspection of all team cars. I never heard who the team in question was but INDYCAR officials sounded extremely busy during the weekend. (UPDATE to the UPDATE: the cars in question were the 27 and 28 Andretti Autosport teams.)
But today was Bump Day… with no bumps. Penalties, heat and attendance were all moot today; this would be the first time since 2004 that there would not be a single bump attempt; an anticlimactic end to an anticlimactic weekend. I was shocked at the difference of attendance when comparing yesterday to today. Pole day was packed and for the second year in a row, it looked like the Speedway was forced to open many extra sections of seating to accommodate the sizable pole day crowd. The lack of bumping, a playoff Pacers game that tipped at 3:30, the oppressive heat or a combination of all three really kept the crowds to a minimum today.
Wow, what a weekend! Now we have a few days off until the single(!), final hour of practice on Friday. The drivers embark on a week-long media blitz and mechanics get to snag a few extra hours of beauty rest in preparation for next weekend’s race. Overlooking all the negative aspects of the weekend can be a bit easier when you consider we have seen the closest P1 to P2 gap in history; a difference of about 9 ¾ inches over ten miles. The front row consists of Canadian James Hinchcliff, American Ryan Hunter-Reay and Austrailsn Ryan Briscoe; a great group to lead the PR assault.
Get some rest and I will see you again on Tuesday with more shenanigans and misguided ramblings somehow related to this crazy sport we love called indycar racing.
UPDATE 12:45 PM
Welcome to day 2 of the anotherindycarblog live Bump Day blog! We are coming at you from the Social Media Garage just south of the Pagoda, next to the Lids shop. I don’t expect much on track activity today so the updates won’t be coming at you in the same fast and furious manner as yesterday. Before qualifying gets going there’s a few things from yesterday that are of note.
Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti qualified P15 and P16 during yesterday’s session. The team ran afoul of over boost penalties and had issues bouncing off of the hard rev limiter which limited their success in qualifying. The apparent issue was the choice of gearing the teams decided to use. TCGR has again out thought and beat themselves for the second year in a row in qualifying. The team simply needs to perform and quit trying to dominate. I know they feel behind after a few poor performances, but they need to stop being their own worst enemy.
After watching the cars for many… many hours this week, I think the drivers and engineers have been taking these chassis to the ragged edge. For six and a half hours yesterday we saw the cars dance and slide through the corners with three drivers taking it a single eyelash too far and finding the wall. As any driver from the early 90’s could tell you, it’s not necessarily the speed that makes qualifying scary or difficult; it’s the handling of the car. We have heard reports that the DW12 was stuck through the corners and it was a comparably easier car to drive than in years past. But once the downforce starts getting peeled off, these new chassis become a wholly different beast.
Even with the unfortunately slim chance of bumping today, the “stories” of Indianapolis have not been missing this year. After Bryan Clauson became intimate with the south wall, there was a fully of activity to help the beleaguered SFHR squad get back to the track. Andy O’Gara told Robin Miller that it has been all hands on deck from around the paddock to get the number 39 machine back in action. Penske, Andretti, Sam Schmidt, and Ganassi were specifically mentioned when asked who was helping the team out. Anywhere else I may have been surprised with the level of comradery thought out the garage; but this is Indy.
Fans have rallied around the Fan Force United camp this weekend as well. The small, garagista team has had nothing but struggles and bad luck since their indycar program was created a few short weeks ago. I have been able to talk to a few of the mechanics working for the team and they want to be here. They aren’t here just for a check or for glory, they are here become a part of something larger. The team understands the Lotus engine troubles and isn’t in the same boat as the teams that signed with Lotus at the beginning of the year. With all of the heart the upstart program has shown, I hope they can find a way to continue through the year and grow hand in hand with Lotus.
I should see you guys once or twice more later in the afternoon. Sit back and enjoy the relaxed day we are no doubt in store for. I could imagine that there won’t be a heavy practice session following the close of qualifying today and with no bumping expected I am almost surprised by the amount of people actually in attendance today.