James Hinchcliffe walked away safely from a crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying Saturday afternoon, but his primary car for the race suffered massive damage.
The driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara-Honda was on the second lap of his qualifying attempt when his car got loose in Turn 2 and made contact with the SAFER barrier. The car then caught air and nearly flipped before coming back down and spinning to a halt.
Hinchliffe immediately received attention from the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team. After climbing out of the car unscathed, he was quickly checked and released from the infield care center and cleared to drive by Dr. Geoffrey Billows, IndyCar medical director.
“The car was on the edge for sure,” Hinchcliffe told NBC Sports. “We were a little loose in (turns) 3 and 4, but 1 and 2 was solid so I was sort of planning to dial some understeer in on the north side of the track on that lap, but something just caught me in [turn] two. I don’t know if it was a gust of wind or what. We’ve been pretty aggressive on the setup and with a gusty day, that’s what happens. Pretty much our nightmare.”
Though Hinchcliffe was unsure of whether his backup car would be ready to return to the track Saturday, a feverish effort by his SPM crew had the backup car back in the tech line a couple of hours later. He returned to the track less than three hours after the wreck, but his team waved off the attempt as he shook the car down.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in the No. 5 Arrow guys. We’re going to get this car or another car back together and go take another shot,” Hinchcliffe said.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has not been kind to Hinchcliffe over the last few years. The Canadian driver was seriously injured after a crash during practice for the 2015 race. Last year, he was one of two drivers that failed to qualify for the race.