A Day of Twists and Turns

If you had Ben Hanley and Pippa Mann locking in spots for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, and Fernando Alonso having to come back tomorrow to duke it out for a spot in the last row – raise your hand. I thought so, and neither did I.

Although I thought most of the day after the first hour was a bit of a snoozer, things got serious in the last hour. Then crunch time hit in the last thirty minutes. Like this format or not (and I tend to lean towards the latter), the last hour of the day provided a vast amount of entertainment and the drinking word of the day – drama.

First the facts…Spencer Pigot was the fastest qualifier of the day. That does not mean he is on the pole. That will be decided in the Fast Nine Shootout…unless tomorrow is a washout. The Last Row Shootout gets priority and if there is no time to do the Fast Nine, today’s times stand for positions one through nine. So if that’s the case, the other eight positions (in order) went to Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta, Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter, Alexander Rossi and Sébastien Bourdais. That makes three Hondas and six Chevys in the Fast Nine.

Aside from the aforementioned Pippa Mann and Ben Hanley, those that are a bit of a surprise in the locked in positions between tenth and thirtieth include JR Hildebrand, Jordan King, Zach Veach, Marcus Ericsson, Felix Rosenqvist, Santino Ferrucci and Charlie Kimball.

Most notable is who is not in. The list of six drivers forced to battle it out tomorrow or whenever weather permits is headed by Fernando Alonso, who was the last driver bumped. James Hinchcliffe is still on the outside looking in, after having been relegated to his backup car after his frightening crash earlier in the day. Sage Karam has been unable to find speed all week and that continued today. Others hoping to get in tomorrow are Kyle Kaiser, Max Chilton and Pato O’Ward. The Carlin cars are struggling and Charlie Kimball is their only car in the field so far.

So far, the feel-good story of the month goes to Pippa Mann and Clauson Marshall Racing for beating the odds they faced as a start-up team with little experience at this level. But they had a smart strategy all through the week and stuck to it. They epitomize the little team that could. Susan was able to catch a shot of her just as she got out of the car after the gun went off, signaling that she was in. Then I was able to catch her emotions just after she pulled her helmet off.

pippa monica

pippa low

The other feel-good story goes to Ben Handley and DragonSpeed Racing. After being excessively slow all week, I’ll admit – I thought he was an automatic to be going home, if there ever was one. But out of nowhere in the last half-hour, he put together four laps with a 227.482 mph average, good enough for starting twenty-seventh, but more importantly – he’s locked in.

Susan snagged another picture at the other end of the grid, just as the gun went off, when Spencer Pigot’s crew started congratulating him. It may or may not be premature, because it is possible that the Top-Nine will be locked in as it stands right now if the weather doesn’t cooperate. If that happens, Pigot will be on the pole for the start of the race.

pigot congrats

Of course at the other end of the spectrum, is McLaren and Fernando Alonso. From a personal standpoint, I’d like to see Alonso in the race next week. But I can’t help but snicker at the thought of big-budgetMcLaren not making the race, but DragonSpeed and Clauson Marshall Racing getting locked in. I get the impression that they thought this was going to be a breeze. This past Wednesday afternoon after Alonso crashed, I distinctly overheard one crew member say they weren’t worried because “…after all, it’s only four identical corners. How difficult can it be?”

But you can’t say he didn’t try. Fernando Alonso made five attempts to qualify today and still fell short. Susan got this photo of a nervous Alonso as he was sitting in line for his fifth and final run, which briefly put him in the field before JR Hildebrand knocked him back out.

Alosnso In car2

That will do it for us tonight. On top of everything else, today is the seventh anniversary of when Susan and I married right here at IMS in 2012. I love this picture of us kissing on the Yard of Bricks, just after we exchanged nuptials on one of the suites.


We are going out to a nice dinner and then calling it a night. We have to be up early tomorrow to be at the track. Is there a better way to spend a wedding anniversary? Please check back here tomorrow morning, and keep your fingers crossed for god weather.

George Phillips

9 Responses to “A Day of Twists and Turns”

  1. Great recap, George! Enjoy tomorrow. I’m actually a fan of this format now. The moons may have aligned with Alonso and Hinch being on the outside looking in but the Fast 9 and the Last 3 has a ton of intrigue.

  2. Talón de Brea Says:

    So much better than a NASCAR kiss on the yard of bricks …

  3. James T Suel Says:

    Nice job George. Congrats on the Anniversary. You should never take Indy lightly.

  4. Kcindyfan Says:

    Congratulations to you and Susan!

  5. billytheskink Says:

    Happy anniversary!

    Much as I like tradition, I will not complain about the entertainment value of this qualifying format.

    • colum1357 Says:

      Have to agree, Skink. and I hope tomorrow is just as entertaining. got to pull for Alonzo and Kaiser.

  6. You seriously heard one of the McLaren guys say that? I share your general sentiment but that seems way over the top.

  7. Ron Ford Says:

    The corners are not identical. Happy anniversary.

  8. Yannick Says:

    Thank you George for the good coverage so far.

    Here’s wishing you and everybody at the track a good and safe Bump Day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: