Although Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway often produces late day drama and emotion, Sunday’s version of the drama began on Saturday during Pole Day action.
With only one contact incident during the entire practice week, three drivers tagged the wall Saturday, sending their first-day qualifying efforts into pieces. Bryan Clauson, Ed Carpenter and Oriol Servia must make their runs Sunday, giving them a starting position no better than 25th.
For Carpenter, his previous worst starting position was in 2005 when he started 26th. In three of the last four years, Carpenter has started in the top 10 in three of the last four Indy 500s, but this year, when Carpenter took his first run, he was not happy with the car and angry that they did not withdraw the time and immediately get back in line. Instead, his car went through post-qualifying tech, and he had to wait to qualify again.
After his incident in turn two, Carpenter was immediately cleared to drive, but his car was heavily damaged on the left side, leaving Carpenter, a first-year car owner, with the realization that instead of time for race setup on Sunday, he would be qualifying for some of the worst starting positions in the field.
For Clauson, a rookie who had looked strong all week in his Sarah Fisher Hartman racing machine, his turn-one bobble turned into heavy damage.
“We felt like we had a great run and really fell on the safe side for most of the run, and it just got away from us. It’s been such a wonderful month, I hate to put a damper on it,” Clauson said. “I didn’t think I had a shot at pole, but I had a great race car.”
Owner Sarah Fisher commented that the team would be repairing Clauson’s car and not going to the back-up machine.
Servia started third in last year’s race and finished sixth. Overall, he finished fourth in the IZOD IndyCar series in 2011. Although the car was moderately damaged, Servia was unable to make another attempt. “I really didn’t think it was going to go, but it did. It’s never fun, but I’m sure the team is going to work hard to put the car back together, and we’ll be out there again.”
Sebastien Bourdais’s first attempt was was waived off by his Dragon Racing team. He went out again after 3 pm. His four-lap average of 222.415 bumped Carpenter from the top 24, but he was sure that the time would not hold up. It did not.
“There is a reason why everyone else has been running for a week, and we got three hours. I think we’ve got to be pretty proud with the effort,” said Bourdais, whose only Indy 500 appearance was in 2005. He started 15th and finished 12th.
Driving for A.J. Foyt, Mike Conway did the bumping of Bourdais. His earlier qualifying attempt was disqualified because of insufficient weight.
“We shouldn’t have been out there in the first place,” Conway said. “We were in the field with a pretty good time, but it was taken away. Luckily there aren’t enough cars here to bump us out. We’ve got to go qualify again and that’s it. Otherwise, we’d have to qualify and be prepared to qualify again.”
Simona de Silvestro and Jean Alesi, the two drivers who have Lotus-powered machines, did not even make an attempt on Saturday.
Bump Day will have a different flavor for 2012. Although rumors flew through the Speedway that some teams may pull out additional cars to prevent the slow Lotus vehicles from making the race on Sunday, no drivers or additional cars were announced.
Clauson will qualify for his first Indianapolis 500, Carpenter and Servia will qualify, but won’t be happy about their view from the start of the race.
Qualifying continues today from 12 p.m to 6 p.m for the remaining nine starting positions.