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Reflections: Bump Day

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Despite an uncertain weather outlook, Saturday’s Bump Day qualifying was completed in full despite two extended rain delays.

The festivities saw its share of moments and while no accidents occurred, the prelude to Sunday’s Pole Day action had plentys of winners and losers. With that in mind, let’s review.

WINNERS

Team Penske: Chevrolet had the advantage, and the 17-time Indianapolis 500 pole winners exploited it to the full. With Helio Castroneves gaining the number one seed for the Pole Day Shootout and his three teammates well within a stone’s throw of the Verizon P1 Award, the favoritism tag is squarely on their shoulders. There is, of course, one major hurdle to jump.

Ed Carpenter Racing: Spencer Pigot proved he is capable of holding his own on a high-speed oval by making the Top Nine. Likewise, Danica Patrick backed-up her solid single runs from Friday by taking the final spot in the shootout. However, most had to be surprised when the team boss nearly ripped away the top spot from Castroneves despite suffering from the highest track temperature any pilot had to face Saturday. This group just missed out on P1 honors in 2017 and will be keen to go one notch higher Sunday evening.

A.J. Foyt Racing: Good to see Super Tex’s aces getting attention for their outputs, as opposed to solely the presence of a legend. Tony Kanaan showed he is still capable of contending for a second Indy 500 victory. Fellow Brazilan Matheus Leist has proven a quick study to the confines of the old Brickyard. And major kudos have to go to the Belardi satellite team of James Davison, who bounced back from a devastating accident on Friday to repair the machine and take the final spot in the 33-car lineup.

The new body kit: Speeds dipped under the magic 230 MPH barrier on Saturday,  but it seemed like drivers had to work harder than in years past to get the maximum out of their mounts. The new Dallara styling is still unproven in race mode, but the chauffeurs seemed satisfied so far.

LOSERS

James Hinchcliffe: Initially, the Canadian’s sub 225 MPH-average was not seen as a concern as conditions seemed to dissipate after the first rain delay. However, as the day continued to near its climax, the Mayor fell further down the scoring pylon before being knocked out with 20 minutes left. A vibration thwarted an opportunity to retaliate, and the final gun dashed the last shot. Tough to see a man who represents IndyCar so well, treated by luck so severely, yet that’s racing.

Honda: After dusting the pavement with their General Motors rivals the past two years, the Honda Performance Development teams, despite having strength in numbers seemed to have no answer regarding the time trial pace factor. The deficit should lessen somewhat in race trim, but a taste of their own medicine was undoubtedly taken on Saturday.

Dale Coyne Racing: Yes, Sebastien  Bourdais made the shootout, a reality that was paled in comparison to the rest of the organization. Zachary Claman De Melo made it in without issue to open the day’s action, yet both Conor Daly and Pippa Mann had to fight for their qualifying lives. The bell saved Daly, however, Mann was not as fortunate and joined Hinchcliffe on the Did Not Qualify list.

Following a wild day of drama, Sunday could follow an even odder format.

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Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

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