INDIANAPOLIS – James Hinchcliffe’s car crashed Saturday during a qualifying attempt, putting the NTT IndyCar Series crowd favorite’s effort to get into the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in question for a second straight year.
Within minutes, Hinchcliffe was checked and released from IU Health Emergency Medical Center at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and cleared to drive.
“The car was on the edge, for sure,” Hinchcliffe said. “We were a little loose in (Turns) 3 and 4, but (Turns) 1 and 2 were solid. … Something just caught me in (Turn) 2. I don’t know if it was a gust of wind or what.”
Hinchcliffe was on the second lap of his four-lap attempt on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at 1:24 p.m. ET when the rear end of his No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda broke free in Turn 2. It did a half spin before its left side slammed into the SAFER Barrier at the exit of the turn.
The car then lifted up on its side before settling down upright. Hinchcliffe, limping slightly, was helped by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team to an ambulance and taken to the infield care center.
The crash forced Hinchcliffe to a backup car. Team co-owner Sam Schmidt said he thought the team would be able to get Hinchcliffe on track Saturday for another attempt in the backup car before the 5:50 p.m. ET end of the session.
“We have a backup all ready to go, sitting here and waiting to get the motor in,” Schmidt said. “I think we’ll make it out today.”
Rain is forecast for Sunday’s final qualifying day, when the order of the first nine cars from Saturday’s qualifying session and the final three positions of the 33-car field are scheduled to be determined. If Sunday’s entire session is rained out, the Fast Nine Shootout will be scrapped, INDYCAR officials said, with the order determined by Saturday’s speeds.
However, in the event of a Sunday washout, the competition for the final row will be held the next available day.
Hinchcliffe, who won the pole for the 2016 Indy 500 a year after surviving life-threatening injuries in a crash while preparing for the race, failed to qualify for the 2018 race when time ran out with his car sitting at the head of the qualifying line. The danger exists for the fan favorite and six-time NTT IndyCar Series race winner to miss the biggest race of the season for the second straight year.
“We obviously overstepped today, which is unfortunate,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s a shame. I don’t know what else to say.”
Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter Racing was the fastest qualifier after each of the 36 entries had made one qualifying attempt by 2:30 p.m., with an average speed of 230.083 mph.