Three-wide contact at Turn 1 dashes Indy 500 hopes for Bell, Carpenter, Hinchcliffe

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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.”

Carb Day: Tony Kanaan is fastest in final practice for Sunday’s Indy 500

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Tony Kanaan wants to put legendary driver and team owner A.J. Foyt back into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan took a big step toward achieving that goal in Friday’s final practice for Sunday’s 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

Kanaan was fastest of the 33-driver field, with a best lap around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at 227.791 mph, more than 2 mph faster than the second-fastest driver, Kanaan’s former teammate, Scott Dixon (225.684 mph).

Foyt won a record-tying four Indy 500’s as a driver. It’s been nearly 20 years since he also won as a team owner in 1999 with Kenny Brack behind the wheel.

Marco Andretti was third-fastest (225.200 mph), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (224.815), Charlie Kimball (224.712), 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (224.083), Will Power (223.942), Danica Patrick (223.653), Spencer Pigot (223.584) and Ed Jones (223.556).

Other notable driver speeds included:

* Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th fastest (223.219 mph).

* Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden was 15th (223.186 mph).

* Helio Castroneves, hoping to earn a record-tying fourth 500 win, was 17th (222.913 mph).

* Graham Rahal was 21st (222.526).

* Former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was 26th (221.916 mph), followed by rookie Robert Wickens (221.821 mph), carrying the mantle for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with James Hinchcliffe having failed to qualify for the race.

* The biggest surprise was 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who was 32nd fastest (221.374 mph).

We’ll have the full speed grid, as well as full driver quotes, shortly. Please check back soon.

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