Has it only been seven years? 2011 was the last year there was bumping at the Speedway for the 500. On Bump Day that year Marco Andretti bumped teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay out of the race as time ran out. Mike Conway, another Andretti driver, also failed to qualify. Hunter-Reay still drove in the race when Andretti bought the A. J. Foyt car qualified by Bruno Junqueira.
It appears likely there will be at least 34 entries, maybe a couple more for this year’s race. If things work out and there are more than 33, the format of the last few years will need some adjustments. I’m not talking a major overhaul, just a couple things to attempt to restore the drama of Bump Day. The current format, though lacking a lot of drama, is fine if every entry is going to make the race. I think that was its purpose. But with more cars than spots, some changes are in order.
First, limit each car to no more than three attempts instead of an unlimited number. This will allow all entrants a fairer shot at making the race. Second, If you want more than one attempt, you must withdraw your previous time. I never liked the rule where a car could keep its time when it went out for a second run and then keep the better one. This is the year to ditch that rule. Third, have a 4:30 deadline to set the Fast Nine for Sunday, leaving the last 90 minutes for bumping. These changes will bring back the drama that has been lacking under the current format. We knew everyone was going to be in. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat hoping a driver would improve from 17th to 16th. Seven of the top nine were pretty much a given, though there might be some drama there this year with the depth of the field. I’m looking forward to the most exciting Saturday qualifying in quite some time.
Now, my favorite part where I get to spend other people’s money. The cars that make a qualifying run but do not make the race should get something for their efforts. Cars that put up a qualifying run but failed to qualify used to get a token amount from the Speedway. A minimum today should probably be around $25,000, which not cover much of the team’s expenses.
Where are the extra cars coming from? To get to 36, as some people think will happen, Honda would likely need to supply 19 engines and Chevrolet 17. I think those numbers are a stretch for both companies. If there is that much interest in entering the race, the urgency to find a third OEM becomes that much stronger.
Here are the entries as of Thursday evening. * -unconfirmed entries
Penske -4- Castroneves, Power, Newgarden, Pagenaud
Andretti 6- Munoz, Wilson, Veach, Andretti, Hunter-Reay, Rossi
Ganassi 2- Jones, Dixon
Rahal 2- Sato, Rahal
Foyt 2- Leist, Kanaan
Schmidt 3- Howard*, Wickens, Hinchcliffe
Carlin 2- Jones, Kimball
Harding 1- Chaves
Shank 1- Harvey
Coyne Vasser Sullivan 3- Mann* Fittipaldi, Bourdais
Carpenter 3- Patrick, Pigot, Carpenter
DRR 2*- Karam* Hilderbrand*
Lazier 1*- Lazier*
Juncos 1- Kaiser
This is 33. There are rumors of a fourth car at Coyne, possibly for Conor Daly, and a possible second Harding car. The other possibility is a third Rahal car for Oriol Servia. I think the Lazier entry is shaky and that would probably be one of the cars not making the race. I am confident of 34. Time will tell.
There is lots of news to discuss next week, including interest in Indycar from another tire company. Have a great weekend. I’ll be back Tuesday.