Associated Press Will Power, the 2014 winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, runs a practice lap Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla. The race is Sunday.
Saturday, March 10, 2018 1:00 am
Indy bumping likely again
Up to 35 entries expected for 500, most since '11
JENNA FRYER | Associated Press
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Bobby Rahal announced Oriol Servia as his third driver for the Indianapolis 500 and immediately started doing some math. The entries at Indy in May may grow beyond 33 and return bumping to the field.
“I'm not quite sure how many entries so far at Indy – 34? 35? A couple that have yet to be announced that I know that are out there,” Rahal said. “I think it's going to make for a very interesting May. Once again, you're going to get in the race because you earned it, not just because you showed up.”
Honda said earlier Friday it has committed to 17 engines and hinted at more coming. Servia's announcement, in a joint deal with Scuderia Corsa, makes it 31 announced entries. Pippa Mann, J.R. Hildebrand and Buddy Lazier – Indy 500 mainstays – have yet to announce deals. Same for Jay Howard, who drove for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports last year.
If all those drivers put together deals, the tension will return to qualifying for IndyCar's biggest race of the year. A driver has not been bumped out of the Indy 500 field since 2011 and qualifying procedures have since been changed to create a final shootout to set the front row. Rahal wouldn't mind if the bumping part of qualifying was done Saturday, the first day, with the pole awarded Sunday.
“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,” Rahal said. “I think it absolutely adds to the folklore of the 500.”
Penske honors Castroneves
Helio Castroneves will not be in the IndyCar field when the season opens for the first time since he joined the series a generation ago. His Team Penske teammates have not forgotten the popular driver.
Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power all wore special “Helio” stickers across the top of their visors in Friday's practice sessions for the season-opening race through the streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday. Castroneves was moved out of Penske's IndyCar organization at the end of last season and now leads its new sports car program.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner who started in the series in 1998 will be back in an Indy car in May when he goes for a record-tying fourth victory at the showcase race. On Friday, he was still trying to adjust to not being on the track and not seeing his familiar No. 3 making laps.
“I'm not going to deny it is difficult,” Castroneves said. “Leading up to the moments for the first practice and seeing the cars, I've been doing this for 20 years and it hasn't yet sank in that I'm not there. Slowly it's going to be normal. ... We get over it. We 'man up.' ”