Neither the tragedy of not making the field nor the integrity upheld with the tradition of Bump Day were lost on James Hinchcliffe after he missed a spot in the field of 33 by one position.
Both emotions were present as the six-time Indianapolis 500 starter chose to appear in most every requested interview and even made his way to the post-qualifying press conference to discuss his day after qualifying 34th out of 35.
Hinchcliffe was below the bubble when Bump Day came to a close at 5:50 p.m. EDT, but he doesn’t place the tradition of the day or the event below his own participation.
“Everybody has been hoping for a Bump Day since 2012,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s part of the tradition of this race, the excitement of about this race — 33 cars start, that’s the deal. It always has been. Barring extenuating circumstances, I’m all for it.”
Beyond being the pilot of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ No. 5 Honda, Hinchcliffe also proudly carries the title as arguably the most prominent ambassador of the Verizon IndyCar Series. From “Celebrity Family Feud” to his runner-up finish on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” Hinchcliffe has directed a broad spotlight in IndyCar’s direction, strengthened by a plain quirky personality he almost never mutes.
Putting his own interests aside and being objective, Hinchcliffe doesn’t detest the tradition that, at the time of writing, will keep him out of the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
“It sucks to be sitting up here saying that at this point,” the Canadian continued.
“The purist in me, the motor sport enthusiast in me thinks this is good for the sport. That’s more important than what’s good for James Hinchcliffe today.”
Hinchcliffe Owns Disastrous Day
While many fans were quick to criticize drivers that fit in extra attempts to improve their qualifying speeds ahead of the at-risk Hinchcliffe, the 93-time IndyCar starter took the first opportunity he got to dispel outside causes.
“I just want to first start off by saying, I haven’t been on the internet, heard anything myself, but I’ve heard some stuff from other people,” Hinchcliffe said to begin his participation in the post-qualifying press conference.
“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 motor sports. Keep your mouth shut.”
Hinchcliffe’s initial four-lap qualifying attempt was the 11th of the day — and the first after a two-hour, 20-minute rain delay — but the 224.784 mph average was erased when he took to the track for a second attempt later.
During his warm-up revolution of the 2.5-mile superspeedway to begin his second attempt, Hinchcliffe was bothered by a vibration that his team later found was caused by a tire pressure sensor that broke off the rim and was rattling inside the car.
Beyond this mechanical issue and his slow first attempt, Hinchcliffe’s day was also hindered by the aforementioned rain delay as he and his 34 competitors lost a significant amount of time due to two separate downpours.
Regardless, Hinchcliffe knows that fair is fair and it was up to him and his crew to find a way into the 33-car field.
“There are so many things that stacked up against us today,” Hinchcliffe said in response to a question by The Apex about the impact of the day’s roller coaster weather forecast.
“That’s the nature of the beast. That’s Indy. That’s qualifying here.
“At the end of the day, everybody got a run, which is the rule. Our run wasn’t good enough, so blame the weather, blame other cars in line — you can blame whatever you want, but it just didn’t happen today.”
Two days after the two-year anniversary of his major crash during final practice for the 2016 Indy 500 which caused life-threatening injuries, Hinchcliffe must carry on with the emotional scar of Bump Day.
“(It’s a) pretty bummed attitude back in the garage at the moment,” he said. “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.”
Looking beyond Indianapolis, Hinchcliffe is scheduled to race next on the weekend of June 1–3 on Detroit’s Belle Isle.