(AP) — Only 33 cars will start the Indianapolis 500 and the field will not be expanded to include James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann, two popular drivers bumped out of the race in qualifying.
IndyCar president of competition and operations Jay Frye tells The Associated Press the series is not considering expanding the field for next Sunday’s race. It was common practice for decades for more than 33 drivers to show up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with many top names failing to make the biggest race in America over the years.
But “bumping” had faded away in a down economy and more than 33 drivers showed up at Indy this year for the first time in three seasons. It meant two would not make “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” — but no one thought it would be series regular Hinchcliffe, who is fifth in the IndyCar standings, or Mann, seeking to make her sixth Indy 500 and join Danica Patrick as the only women in the field.
Frye says race rules do allow for driver changes, and each team is allowed to explore ways to perhaps purchase the seat from a driver who already has qualified for the race. For Hinchcliffe, that could mean his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team shifts him into the seat occupied by Jay Howard, an Indy-only driver.
Like Mann, Howard spends all year raising the money just to run Indy. He was criticized at the start of the season by rival owner Chip Ganassi as a driver not fresh enough to be participating in the Indy 500. Ganassi cited Howard’s role in an accident in last year’s race with Ganassi driver Scott Dixon as his argument.
Howard has 13 career IndyCar starts, and his appearance in last year’s Indy 500 was his first race since 2011. He’s a special third entrant on the Schmidt team for Indy.
Hinchcliffe is the face of a national Honda campaign that’s been running all season and likely spent significant money on advertising time on ABC’s broadcast next week. Not having the popular Canadian in the race would be a blow to Honda, his championship hopes, sponsor Arrow and the rejuvenated Schmidt race team.
Mann is also the third entrant for her team, Dale Coyne Racing. The team already has made one driver swap because Pietro Fittipaldi, the scheduled Indy 500 driver, broke his legs in a crash earlier this month in Belgium. Zachary Claman De Melo, a Canadian rookie, is scheduled to make his Indy 500 debut as Fittipaldi’s replacement.
Mann is one of nine women to have competed in the Indy 500. Her best finish was 17th last season.