Despite team effort, Jourdain fails to get into Indy 500

Leave a comment

With roughly 15 minutes remaining on Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the seemingly inevitable decision was made by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to stop the desperate effort to get Michel Jourdain, Jr. into the 97th Indianapolis 500.

But while the call may have been inevitable, it was no less harder to take for Jourdain. He climbed out of his No. 17 Office Depot Mexico Honda and tried to find solace in the arms of his wife, Nora, burying his head in her shoulder.

With nine spots on the “500” grid up for grabs today and 10 drivers aiming to fill them, one of those drivers was going to go home unhappy this evening at 6 p.m. ET. And that driver was Jourdain, who never found the speed he needed to break into the field despite help from his entire team, including RLL full-time drivers James Jakes and Graham Rahal.

“We tried this morning, James’ setup,” said Jourdain. “He was the fastest of the three cars, and coming out of Turn 4, first lap, I almost spun, and I felt this car isn’t drivable. We put Graham in the car with his exact same setup and everything — [his] steering wheel is in, everything, you know. It was impossible for him to feel a difference. Just couldn’t drive it. He couldn’t go — he came in, got to 204 [miles per hour] and he said, ‘I’m not going any faster.'”

Jourdain indicated that something was structurally wrong with the car (“Something’s bent, broken, bending, loose,” he said), which was raced last month for RLL at Long Beach. He ruled out any issues with the tub itself and said that a backup chassis was never an option for him.

No matter what changes were made to his primary No. 17 Honda on Bump Day, Jourdain was still having to lift noticeably in the corners on late practice runs as he looked for any sort of feel in the cockpit.

The “500” was to be Jourdain’s only race of 2013, but now, he’ll have to watch from afar.

“My sponsors trusted me with this and [it was] a very big project,” he said. “[There’s a] lot of people coming from Mexico next week for this, so it’s hard.”

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

Leave a comment

For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “