The frontstretch grandstand at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway cast a shadow on the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car as the waning minutes of Old National Armed Forces Bump Day ticked away.
Nearby, Michel Jourdain Jr. buried his head in the shoulder of girlfriend Concha as the realization of not even presenting for a qualifying attempt for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race sunk in.
Also nearby, Katherine Legge sat in the No. 81 Schmidt Peterson Pelfrey-prepared Angie’s List car prepared to potentially bump her way back into the 33-car field for the May 26 race. On the bubble at 223.176 mph for her four-lap average speed set five hours earlier, she breathed easier when seeing crew members offering condolences to the veteran driver from Mexico.
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The surprising turn of events propelled Legge, who logged her first track time in the morning practice session (24 laps), into her second Indianapolis 500. Less than 48 hours earlier, her Honda-powered car was a skeleton in the Gasoline Alley garage.
"I was kind of hoping for him that he would (find the speed) because it's always nicer when it's a fair fight, straight to say, then I could say Buddy (Lazier) would be on the bubble and then it would have been a hell of a Bump Day,” said Legge, who advanced eight positions to finish 22nd in her 500 Mile Race debut last May.
“As it is, we created a ton of drama, but it's never nice to see someone not get the opportunity to go out there and do that, so I feel gutter for him."
By Jourdain’s account, and supported by teammate Graham Rahal after turning five laps on the 2.5-mile oval late in the six-hour session, the car just wasn’t comfortable to drive. The chassis is the same last driven by Mike Conway at Long Beach in mid-April.
The crew changed springs, the undertray and rear wing through the afternoon in an effort to find a solution. Jourdain’s final lap of 214.421 mph with 27 minutes left solidified the decision.
“It was a hard all week,” said Jourdain, who posted a best lap of his 394 total (224.228 mph) in the morning session. “Right away, I thought the car to be very good, but when you only drive once a year it’s just so hard. Some days the car was getting better, some days not.
“We tried James (Jakes’) setup, as he was the fastest of the three cars. In Turn 4 of the first lap, I almost spun. I thought this car was undriveable. Then we put Graham (Rahal) in the car. His same setup, even his steering wheel. It was impossible for him to make a difference; he just couldn't drive it. He got to 204 and said, ‘I can't go any faster.’
“The only thing we could do was something stupid and put the car into the wall and not make the race anyway, so there's no point in that. We know, for sure, that there is something wrong with the car, for sure. Something bent, broken, loose, bending. Something is broken in the middle of the car we have not seen.
“First day I was having so much fun. The car was easy to drive and so much fun to drive. Today it was just impossible.”
Josef Newgarden (225.731 mph) was the fastest second-day qualifier in the No. 21 Century 21 car for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Also qualifying were Rahal (225.007), Sebastian Saavedra (224.929), rookie Tristan Vautier (224.873), Ana Beatriz (224.184), Pippa Mann (224.005), rookie Conor Daly (223.582) and Buddy Lazier (223.442).
“It’s something that we’re still not very satisfied, knowing that we had a lot more speed in the beginning of the week,” said Saavedra, driver of the No. 6 Dragon Racing car. “But this is how this place works. We’ve just got to continue to focus. It’s hard to be in Bump Day. Psychologically, it really affects everybody. But it doesn’t matter where you start here at the end. It’s just having a good race car and going from there.”
Lazier, 45, will make his 17th Indianapolis 500 start – the most in the field. The average speed of the field is 226.176 mph.
There are four first-year Indy 500 competitors and four females in the field.