A three-wide passing attempt involving Ed Carpenter, James Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell at Turn 1 was probably the most dramatic incident of this year’s Indianapolis 500, as it ended in contact.
Front row starters Carpenter and Hinchcliffe exchanged the lead over the first 29 laps from the front row and generally stayed in the top five to 10 for the remainder of the race.
Meanwhile Bell charged up to the top-10 from 25th on the grid by Lap 50, and survived an early moment of contact with defending Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan on the front straight. Bell fought through the contact despite his toe being knocked out on the left rear, and he stayed in the top 12 or so for the rest of the race.
On a Lap 176 restart, eventual winner Ryan Hunter-Reay lead from Carpenter in second, Bell in third and Hinchcliffe in fourth.
As the latter trio dove into Turn 1, Bell went to Carpenter’s outside and the two carried the momentum through the corner entry, with Hinchcliffe then attempting to make a move to the inside.
Bell contacted Carpenter, and Hinchcliffe also got into Carpenter. Bell made it through but the other two were done on the spot.
Despite some earlier good banter between Carpenter and Hinchcliffe earlier this week in Indianapolis 500 media advances, Carpenter did not approve of Hinchcliffe’s move.
“Hinch tried to make it three-wide in Turn 1 with 25 laps to go. Not a smart move,” Carpenter said. “It wrecked both of our races. It wasn’t a green-white-checkered situation.
“Of all the guys out there, I wouldn’t have thought it would be Hinch. I am pretty good friends with him and those guys at Andretti. I think he just didn’t use his head right then.”
Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, took the high road and apportioned blame to both himself and Bell, while excusing Carpenter.
“I was the last guy on the scene. From where I was, I thought it could have been the last restart, last stint for sure and you have to go for it,” Hinchcliffe explained. “Ed pulled out and Ed gave me the room initially. I honestly don’t think Townsend knew we were three-wide. I was the last guy there so I need to take a portion of the blame.
“I didn’t think Townsend would hold the outside, because you can’t do that here. You’d be in the gray,” he added. “That’s how it played out, where he hit Ed and Ed hit me. It’s 100 percent not Ed’s fault. He had a great month. I’m gutted for the guy.”
Bell tended to agree more with Hinchcliffe’s take on the situation.
“I got hit by Ed. I had no idea Hinch was there… so I left enough room for Ed,” he told MotorSportsTalk.
While the two front-row starters were out on the spot, Bell still had a shot to win in what was one of his best career Indianapolis 500 drives. Sadly his contact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 2 took him out of the race on Lap 191. It also precipitated a red flag, and set up the race for a thrilling finish.
With all said and done, Bell ended 25th, Carpenter 27th and Hinchcliffe 28th. And for all three, it was a case of “what could have been.”