IndyCar expects bumping to return at the 2018 Indianapolis 500 as a 35-car entry list looks likely, Motorsport.com understands.
The new universal aerokit and a reduction in costs has helped IndyCar sign up to almost a capacity grid early, with 31 cars already confirmed and several more to be announced in the coming weeks.
IndyCar’s season-opening race at St Petersburg saw Oriol Servia confirmed in a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry in conjunction with IMSA star team Scuderia Corsa.
The burgeoning entry list has reignited the debate over Bump Day and whether IndyCar should relax the 33-car limit.
Three-time CART champion and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team boss Bobby Rahal says IndyCar should stick to its current maximum.
“Certainly the qualifying process is different now than it used to be,” said Rahal. “But I still think if the bumping is now on Saturday, there's a lot of pressure.
“I've been through that process before. I can tell you it's no fun to be one of those guys on the bubble. I'm not quite sure how many entries [there are] so far at Indy. 34, 35? Now there's a couple that have yet to be announced that I know that are out there.
“I think bumping is important to the 500 because it's always been such a big part of the 500, the story, how many people failed, how many people made it at the last second.
“It adds certainly to the drama, and I think it absolutely adds to the folklore of the 500.
“They write about the 500, the race itself. But clearly, over the years, the whole qualifying process has been just as dynamic a story as the race itself.”
In the last 80 years, only two editions of the 500 – 1979 and 1997 – have seen more than 33 starters.
Art St. Cyr, boss of Honda Performance Developments, added that it is was important the tradition is protected and that more than 33 cars attempt to qualify.
“Quite frankly we never expect any of our [Honda-powered] cars to actually get bumped when it comes down to that timeframe,” he said.
“That's part of the tradition, the 33 car field at the Indy 500. It adds to some of the excitement of qualifying, it's the biggest race in the world.
“There should be some stress and some hard work that requires you to actually get into that race. We would welcome having more than 33 cars so there is some bumping at that race.”
Mark Kent, head of GM Racing, last weekend said that Chevrolet would be prepared to supply Ilmor units to more than 17 cars.
“If history repeats itself, there's 33 cars that start!” he joked on Saturday. “I think the last few years there have been 33 or 34 cars that have tried to start the race. Historically we've had about half the field.
“I would imagine probably a 17/17 split with Honda. If there are more cars that want to try to qualify, we're definitely in a position to support some more cars.”
JR Hildebrand, without a full-time seat this year, will imminently be confirmed as the second Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver alongside Sage Karam, while even before the season began, St. Petersburg winning team owner Dale Coyne said that Pippa Mann is virtually a lock for the fourth DCR car.
Former Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Mikhail Aleshin was looking for an Indy 500 ride during the off-season, while it is also thought that James Davison – possibly in conjunction with Jonathan Byrd’s Racing – will find a fulltime team to partner with.
Indy Lights driver Juan Piedrahita is also understood to have a budget for Indy.
Team-wise, AJ Foyt Racing and possibly Harding Racing have indicated interest in adding an Indy-only entry.
Indy 500 grid entries so far
Team Penske-Chevrolet: Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Helio Castroneves
Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda: Scott Dixon, Ed Jones
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda: Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Oriol Servia (Scuderia Corsa partnership)
Andretti Autosport-Honda: Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach, Stefan Wilson, Carlos Munoz
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Honda: James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens, Jack Harvey (Michael Shank Racing partnership)
Dale Coyne Racing-Honda: Sebastien Bourdais, Pietro Fittipaldi, Conor Daly, TBA
Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet: Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter, Danica Patrick
AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet: Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist
Carlin Racing-Chevrolet: Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball
Harding Racing-Chevrolet: Gabby Chaves
Juncos Racing-Chevrolet: Kyle Kaiser
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-Chevrolet: Sage Karam, TBA