After being “bumped” from the 2018 Indianapolis 500 field in last Saturday’s “Bump Day” qualifying session, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe has today confirmed that he is no longer searching for a deal to get him back into the race.
In Saturday’s first day of qualifying, Hinchcliffe’s first attempt to qualify came straight after the track re-opened after a rain delay. This meant that the racing surface was not as rubbered in as it would have been for drivers who ran before and after him.
As the clock ticked toward the end of the session, Hinchcliffe found himself in the bottom two that would not qualify for the race. His team left it late to get him back out onto the track to complete another qualifying attempt, only for the Canadian to have to pit shortly thereafter due to a tyre vibration.
Hinchcliffe got back in line to qualify once again, but the session time expired before he could turn a wheel again. This meant that he would be shockingly eliminated from contention, along with Dale Coyne Racing‘s Pippa Mann. The gap was agonizingly small for Hinchcliffe, with just over one-hundredth of a second between him and the thirty-third placed car that had made it through to the race.
After qualifying, speculation began to circulate that Hinchcliffe, who is currently in fifth place in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, could replace another driver who had managed to successfully qualify for the race. This is not a new practice, with a similar situation last taking place back at the 2011 Indianapolis 500 when Andretti Autosport negotiated a deal for the “bumped” Ryan Hunter-Reay to replace Bruno Junqueira for the race.
Both Jay Howard and Jack Harvey – who both have affiliations with SPM – were touted as possible drivers who could make way for James. However, both drivers were understandably reluctant to make way, with Harvey recently stating an interview with WTF1 that “No amount of money” would be enough to get him to step aside.
Now, after a few days of speculation, Hinchcliffe took to his social media channels to confirm that he had stopped searching for a seat and that he would be spectating the Indianapolis 500 instead of racing in it.
“Barring unforeseen circumstances I will not be racing in the Indy 500 this year,” Hinchcliffe’s social media post read, “The decision was made to stop pursuing options to get us in the race.
“There really aren’t words to describe how missing this race feels. At the end of the day, we simply didn’t get the job done. No excuses. This is our reality and we will face it head on, we will use it as motivation and we will come back stronger. We have a great team, incredible partners and the best fans, all who have been so supportive through this.
“I’m sorry we can’t be on the track for you Sunday, but we will be pushing hard for the wins in Detroit [the next race after Indy]. I wish all thirty-three drivers a fast and safe race. I’ll be watching and cheering on my SPM teammates. See you in Detroit.”
Prior to today’s announcement, there had been mixed opinions on whether or not James should find another seat. On one hand, you had many of Hinchcliffe’s fans obviously rooting for their driver to get back onto the grid. At the same time, however, you had many saying that Hinchcliffe replacing another driver would undermine the whole “Bump Day” elimination process that has been a part of the Indy 500 rulebook for many years.
Hinchcliffe’s announcement today may have disappointed a lot of fans and it was undoubtedly a very hard thing for James to go through, but there is no question that he has – somehow – gained even more fans than he already had. In the immediate aftermath of today’s news, many took to social media to praise James for his “dignity”, “class”, and “respect for the sport.”
The 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place this Sunday, May 27. You can check out our preview for the race by using the following link: 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500 – preview