Bruno Junqueira, who twice had to stand down from the Indy 500 when his ride got sold to a non-qualifier, says that he hopes Schmidt Peterson Motorsports doesn’t buy James Hinchcliffe an entry.
Hinchcliffe’s first qualifying run yesterday, which came right after a 2hr20min delay for rain, resulted in a four-lap average of only 224.784mph which by the end of everyone’s initial runs, saw him pushed down the order.
Conor Daly, who had been knocked out of the top 33, then bumped his way in and bumped out Dale Coyne Racing teammate Pippa Mann.
When Oriol Servia finally made a complete run in his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with Scuderia Corsa entry, he knocked Daly out again, but Daly’s third run was enough to get him back in and this time depose 2016 Indy 500 polesitter Hinchcliffe.
When Hinchcliffe went to make a second run, a loose tire pressure sensor gave him a major vibration, and he ran out of time to make a third attempt.
The Canadian star, who currently lies fifth in the championship, will take a huge hit in the standings if he doesn’t start the 500 since it is worth double points.
Rival full-time teams are unlikely to sacrifice their entry for Hinchcliffe’s sake, and as a well-known ‘face’ of Honda in advertising campaigns, his options will not include Chevrolet-powered teams.
So in order to get Hinchcliffe into the 500 so the Schmidt Peterson team may need to make a deal with the sponsors of their Jay Howard entry or the Meyer-Michael Shank Racing entry for Jack Harvey. Another possibility is a deal with Dale Coyne Racing for Conor Daly’s entry.
But Junqueira, who twice had his qualified cars bought out from underneath him, said he hoped Schmidt Peterson would accept Hinchcliffe’s shock DNQ and not buy him a ride.
The Brazilian tweeted: “Hinch is getting good publicity for the way he handled the non qualify for the 500. I hope his team accept he didn’t qualify and don’t change drivers.
“I feel sorry for @Hinchtown because he is a good driver and a gentleman outside the car. But he will have many other chances to race the Indy 500.”
Junqueira, who took pole for the 2002 Indy 500, qualified a Conquest Racing car for the Indy 500 in 2009 and then gave it up for the non-qualified fulltimer at Conquest, Alex Tagliani.
Two years later, when Ryan Hunter-Reay failed to qualify, AJ Foyt Racing sold Junqueira’s qualified entry to Andretti Autosport so Hunter-Reay could start.