Hinchcliffe stunned to be bumped from Indy 500 field

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Of the names mentioned as possible victims of getting bumped, James Hinchcliffe’s was not one of them.

Although down on speed in comparison to previous years, “Hinch” appeared to be in no danger of missing the field for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500. His best non-tow lap on “Fast Friday” came in at 226.950 mph. A four-lap average at that speed would have easily been enough to put him into the field of 33 – such an average speed would have put him 16th on the board on Saturday.

But, mysteriously, speed disappeared from the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda on Saturday, and Hinchcliffe’s first qualifying attempt was only at 224.784 mph.

And when Oriol Servia bumped his way in with less than 30 minutes remaining, Hinchcliffe and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports began the scramble to get him on track for a second attempt.

While they did make it back out, withdrawing the first time in the process, Hinchcliffe immediately reported a bad tire vibration and waved off the attempt.

He was never able to make another attempt, as time expired while he was waiting on pit road, and his fate was sealed.

Still, Hinchcliffe remained his usual, classy self, and defended Pippa Mann, the other driver who was bumped, and others who made extra attempts prior to him, as some circles had suggested quietly that they were in the wrong – Mann, given that her speed wouldn’t have been fast enough to get in, and the others for making attempts they didn’t “need” to make.

Hinchcliffe, however, was emphatic in his defense of them.

“This is in no way Pippa Mann’s fault, or (the fault of) anybody else in line (who made another attempt). This is our fault. If there’s anybody out there that has anything bad to say about that, you don’t know motorsports. Keep your mouth shut,” he declared.

He went on to explain what went wrong on his second attempt, detailing that a tire pressure senor had broken off and was rattling around inside the wheel.

“The track kept getting a little bit quicker, so we were pretty optimistic, to be honest. As soon as I left pit lane, I felt a horrible vibration. Called it in. Weirdly, it started to go away. I thought I had some pickup on my tires or something. I called into the team, I think it’s all right, I’m going to keep going. Turn three, it all came back again. It was violent,” he said of the vibration.

He continued, “If we had to stay out, (there’s a) good chance we would have gotten a tire failure –  you would not be in the show, have a broken racecar. It worked out timing-wise, not enough seconds in the day to get our last run in.”

What’s worse is that car did have enough speed to get in. They just didn’t have a chance to show it.

“For sure the car had speed to be in the show. I mean, not the fastest car by any stretch this month, but we weren’t expecting that. But certainly enough to be comfortable in the show,” he revealed.

And when asked once more about his thoughts on other drivers making attempts ahead of him and their impact on his efforts, Hinchcliffe again defended everyone who made an extra attempt.

“Nobody screwed us. The system didn’t fail us. We failed us,” he asserted. “We just have to do better. I know this team is capable of better. We are better than this, I know that. Everybody in the garage knows that. We deserve to be in this race. Just not this year.”

Hinchcliffe entered the Indy 500 fifth in the championship, 34 points behind points leader Josef Newgarden. If Hinchcliffe is not added to the field, either as the driver of Jay Howard’s No. 7 One Cure Honda or with another Honda team, he is sure to plummet in the championship standings.

Pippa Mann Emotional Missing After Missing “500” Field

Pippa Mann. Photo: IndyCar

For the first time in her career, Pippa Mann was bumped from the Indy 500 field.

She survived Bump Day in 2011, her first “500” effort, in a one-off entry for the now defunct Conquest Racing, even outqualifying the team’s full-season driver Sebastian Saavedra, who failed to make the race that year. Mann went on to finish 20th that year.

She made every “500” she attempted to make since then – she skipped the 2012 race – at least until this year.

After ending “Fast Friday” 32nd on the non-tow list, she certainly appeared to be in jeopardy. Indeed, Saturday qualifying proved to be more of the same, as her No. 63 Honda just didn’t have enough speed for her to bump her way back in after she was bumped out.

Mann explained in a post-qualifying press conference that, prior to “Fast Friday,” practice had been going well. But when the boost levels were turned up, that’s when she and team realized they might be in trouble.

“Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll be honest with you, we thought things were going pretty well. The car handled great. It was really good. It was pretty good in traffic. We thought things were rolling along pretty nicely. The no tow reports, they looked fine,” she explained.

Mann continued, “Then yesterday morning, I rolled out, (and went 226 mph) out of the box. (I thought) ‘Great, this isn’t bad. Now let’s trim the car.’ Went through it again, nothing. That’s when we started to realize we might really be in trouble.”

Pippa Mann’s DNQ means that Danica Patrick, who was ninth fastest on Saturday, will be the only woman in the Indy 500 field this year.

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Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

Tom Blomqvist
Rolex/Stephan Cooper
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is. I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”