Track Talk: 2018 Indy 500 Qualifying Recap

track-talk

Qualifying for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 is in the books, and for the first time in a while bump day produced some serious drama that will see two popular drivers watching the race from pit lane.

Oh Canada, Oh James Hinchcliffe: Just over a week ago it was looking like there would be three Canadian drivers in the field, with Montreal’s Zachary Claman De Melo filling in for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi. We’re back to two Canucks, with Claman De Melo and Robert Wickens flying the maple leap on Sunday. A broken tire sensor caused serious vibrations during Jame Hinchcliffe’s qualifying run, and then poor timing and rain delays prevented him from making another attempt. Hinchcliffe, along with Dale Coyne Racing’s Pippa Mann will both miss Sunday’s race.

Is it really over for Hinchcliffe? At Indy it’s the car that qualifies and not the driver. Theoretically, Hinchcliffe and SPM could look at buying a starting spot from another Honda team (or even look within their own team). It’s been done before, as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport bought their way into Bruno Junqueira’s AJ Foyt Enterprises car for the 2011 Indy 500. Racer.com does a great job of summarizing Hinchcliffe’s options hereEdit: Hinchcliffe recently stated that SPM has stopped searching for a new ride, and they will focus on the remainder of the season.

Keep an eye on Ed Carpenter Racing: Expanding to three cars for Indy, team owner and driver, Ed Carpenter, held off a Team Penske charge to earn his third Indy 500 pole. Can the oval-only specialist finally convert this into a win? But don’t just focus on the boss-man, both Spencer Pigot and Danica Patrick put in stellar runs to qualify 6th and 7th, respectively. Patrick will be making her final start in the Indy 500, before retiring from motorsports.

The bowties bite back: There have been six Indy 500’s run under the 2.2L twin turbo, six-cylinder engine formula, with Honda winning four to Chevrolet’s two. Many thought that the playing field would be fairly level given the new universal aero kit, but standalone lap times and speeds suggest that Chevy has a slight speed advantage over Honda. Need any more confirmation? Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon were the only two Honda drivers to punch their way into the fast nine. Bourdais will roll off 5th while Dixon starts 9th. 

And speaking of engines: A revised engine formula for 2021 onwards will see displacement increased from 2.2L to 2.4L, while maintaining the six-cylinder, twin-turbo setup from years past. The revised formula will provide a bump in horsepower and make the cars a bit more of a challenge to tame. Another upside? The new formula could attract a third manufacturer.

Victor Genova is the host of the Media People Podcast and a freelance racing writer. You can follow him on Instagram at @VicGenova

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