Sunday’s so-called “Bump Day” for the Indianapolis 500 will be a Bump Day in name only.
With 33 cars to make up the full field for the May 29 Greatest Spectacle In Racing already in place, and without any additional entries, there will be no bumping per se on Sunday. Instead, we’ll see additional qualifying for the top 12 qualifiers plus the Firestone Fast Six to set the first two rows at the front of the field for next Sunday’s race.
So without any additional cars to bump, the vibe Sunday will definitely be different, Team Penske president Tim Cindric said when asked by Autoweek.
There won't be any of the drama and heartbreak produced by, say, 1995, when defending Indy 500 race winner Al Unser Jr. (pictured above) was bumped out of the field in qualifying.
“I think it's been an evolution here,” Cindric said. “You look back when I grew up and there would be sometimes 50 or 60 cars show up here trying to qualify. But the disparity in equipment was so much where the difference between the pole time and the last place time was pretty big if you go back and look at it; and the availability of equipment and the different equipment and so forth.
“Right now I think it's quality versus quantity, and when you look at the number of people that can actually win this race relative to those days, it's very different.
“So I think there's a give and take and a compromise to all that for sure, and the amount of cars and quality cars, right now you can't come here on a shoestring. Before, you could come here on a shoestring, try and come in the second week, put together some engine in some old car and try and wish your way in. You can't do that anymore.
“The cost of the race car and the engine and all that is the same for everybody, but the upside is the availability of what it takes to win is the same for everybody, as well.
“You couldn't get a Penske car or a Coyote or anything else back then, but everyone else has the same opportunity we do now.
“Certainly it's evolved. I miss Bump Day, as well. My father's engines were always part of that day and it was always a very difficult time, but it was always very interesting for the underdog and all the rest of it. I didn't enjoy it last year. I remembered what all that was about.
“I think from a competitor's standpoint we're pretty focused on what we're trying to do, but I think from a spectator perspective, I think we appreciate the fact that IndyCar has looked at that and looked at how to change the format to make it more interesting given that there's only 33 cars.”
It’s unclear whether IndyCar will go back to having a true Bump Day next year if there are more than 33 entries to compete in the 500. Time will tell, we guess.
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski.