The last time a car failed to qualify for the famed Indianapolis 500 was three years ago. It was 2015. That lone driver and team was Buddy Lazier in his No. 91 Lazier Partners Racing Chevrolet.
Qualifying – and bump day in particular – is a favorite among fans but for the drivers and teams who lack speed, it can put knots in their stomach. Bump day is back this year, and two drivers will fail to qualify for the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
Several drivers are in good shape to qualify, so long as they don’t come into any unexpected issues.
No. 1 – Josef Newgarden – Team Penske – 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion
No. 3 – Helio Castroneves – Team Penske – Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner
No. 4 – Matheus Leist – A.J. Foyt Racing – Rookie
No. 6 – Robert Wickens – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – Rookie
No. 9 – Scott Dixon – Chip Ganassi Racing – 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner / four-time IndyCar champion
No. 12 – Will Power – Team Penske – 2014 IndyCar champion
No. 13 – Danica Patrick – Ed Carpenter Racing – 2009 Indianapolis 500 podium finisher
No. 14 – Tony Kanaan – A.J. Foyt Racing – 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner
No. 15 – Graham Rahal – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – 2009 Indianapolis 500 podium finisher
No. 20 – Ed Carpenter – Ed Carpenter Racing – Three-time IndyCar race winner
No. 21 – Spencer Pigot – Ed Carpenter Racing – 2015 Indy Lights champion
No. 22 – Simon Pagenaud – Team Penske – 2016 IndyCar champion
No. 24 – Sage Karam – Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – 2013 Indy Lights champion
No. 27 – Alexander Rossi – Andretti Autosport – 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner
No. 29 – Carlos Munoz – Andretti Autosport – Two-time Indianapolis 500 podium finisher
No. 30 – Takuma Sato – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner
No. 64 – Oriol Servia – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing / Scuderia Corsa – One-time IndyCar race winner
No. 88 – Gabby Chaves – Harding Racing – 2014 Indy Lights champion
No. 98 – Marco Andretti – Bryan Herta Autosport – Three-time Indianapolis 500 podium finisher
Listed as safe is basically half of the entrants – 19 of 35 to be exact. Most of the drivers listed as safe are those to be expected. Several past winners, champions and just those who have had good speed throughout the month of May.
Danica Patrick, despite a seven-year absence from IndyCar, should easily qualify for the race. She hasn’t lost her speed or her touch when it comes to this tricky track. Her young teammate Spencer Pigot is also safe. He’s been quick this week, and is in good equipment.
Both full-time A.J. Foyt Racing drivers are safe. They’ve struggled in qualifying recently at Indianapolis, but seem to have the speed this year so Tony Kanaan and rookie Matheus Leist are good.
SHOULD BE SAFE:
No. 5 – James Hinchcliffe – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – Five-time IndyCar race winner
No. 7 – Jay Howard – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – Two-time Indy Lights race winner
No. 10 – Ed Jones – Chip Ganassi Racing – 2017 Indianapolis 500 podium finisher
No. 18 – Sebastien Bourdais – Dale Coyne Racing – Four-time IndyCar champion
No. 19 – Zachary Claman de Melo – Dale Coyne Racing – Rookie
No. 23 – Charlie Kimball – Carlin Racing – 2015 Indianapolis 500 podium finisher
No. 26 – Zach Veach – Andretti Autosport – Six-time Indy Lights race winner
No. 28 – Ryan Hunter-Reay – Andretti Autosport – 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner / 2012 IndyCar champion
Two former series champions along with another multi-time IndyCar race winner makes up the eight drivers who should be safe.
Ryan Hunter-Reay hasn’t had a lot of speed this week, and this isn’t a one-time concern for him at Indy, either. In fact, he was one of eight drivers who failed to qualify for the 2011 edition of this race.
James Hinchcliffe also hasn’t shown a lot of speed. He’s 33rd of the 35 drivers on the combined practice sheets. That should put him in danger, but his team has been one of the strongest this season. One more day of practice before qualifying begins should allow for some pickup.
Also on this list are two Dale Coyne Racing drivers – Sebastien Bourdais, who had that spectacular crash last year, and Zachary Claman de Melo, filling in for Pietro Fittipaldi who had a spectacular crash of his own while in Belgium. De Melo got in that No. 19 car later than most, but showed a lot of promise in both practice and the infield road course last week.
No. 17 – Conor Daly – Dale Coyne Racing / Thom Burns Racing – One-time Indy Lights race winner
No. 25 – Stefan Wilson – Andretti Autosport – Two-time Indy Lights race winner
No. 32 – Kyle Kaiser – Juncos Racing – 2017 Indy Lights champion
No. 33 – James Davison – A.J. Foyt Racing / Jonathan Byrd Racing – Two-time Indy Lights race winner
No. 59 – Max Chilton – Carlin Racing – One-time Indy Lights race winner
No. 60 – Jack Harvey – Meyer Shank Racing with SPM – Six-time Indy Lights race winner
No. 63 – Pippa Mann – Dale Coyne Racing – One-time Indy Lights race winner
No. 66 – J.R. Hildebrand – Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – 2011 Indianapolis 500 runner up
Eight drivers will grasp on to the hope that they will be a part of the 33 drivers in the Indianapolis 500 next Sunday. Those in danger should mostly come as no surprise.
J.R. Hildebrand is perhaps the one surprise to this list. He’s been quick this week, but on Thursday became the first driver to be bitten by the speedway. He crashed in practice and will drive a backup car. The backup isn’t the concern, but a few wrong moves during qualifying could be enough to take him out of the race.
Meanwhile, James Davison is another on this list who may be in good shape. Another one-off this season for the Aussie, but his teammates are around for the full year. If he can lean on Kanaan and Leist, he should qualify for his fourth Indy 500.
Perennial favorite Pippa Mann often struggles in qualifying and this weekend will likely be much of the same. What she has going for her is a lot of Indianapolis experience. That should aide her in her attempt.
Max Chilton who came close to a win last year just needs to have a consistent qualifying session. If he can manage that, he’ll race next Sunday and likely march through the field.
Kyle Kaiser, Jack Harvey, Conor Daly and Stefan Wilson are probably the most in danger. Harvey struggled here mightily last year. He couldn’t get a stable grip on the track the entire month, and had a tough time with handling. He’s shown decent speed this month but his handle on the track is questionable.
Kaiser’s Juncos Racing machine has also been down on the speed chart this month, and through most of the season. He’s a talented driver, but this small team is still learning.
Daly and Wilson have been the slowest drivers in practice this month. Daly has a lot of experience on this track, while Wilson doesn’t. These two will need a perfect weekend in order to make the race. One advantage they both share are teammates with a lot of Indianapolis experience.