Two cars were unable to qualify for the field of 33 yesterday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Neither James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow SPM Honda or Pippa Mann in the No. 63 Donate Life Dale Coyne Honda will start in the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Mann has qualified for the past six Indianapolis 500’s in a row. She’s had a best start of P22 in 2017 and a best finish of P17 in 2017. Mann is one of the passionate drivers when it comes to her sponsorships and her advocacy for issues that matter to her. From her work for multiple seasons with the Susan G. Komen foundation, to her current work with Donate Life, she’s a constant presence on social media, and she gets her fans on board just as passionately for these causes.
Yesterday’s events were difficult to comprehend for those fans, as well as Mann and the entire No. 63 Donate Life Dale Coyne Racing team.
Her determination never wavered, even in the face of adversity. The odds were stacked against her but she knew she had to continue to try for her team, her sponsors, and her fans. Unfortunately, things did not pan out in her favor, with the 5:50 p.m. gun going off in the middle of her last attempt. The numbers they were running weren’t enough to get the No. 63 in the field. The emotion of that reality was apparent as soon as Pippa took off her helmet. An expected and understandable reaction.
I think people forget sometimes that drivers are human beings. They are an elite group that have a set of skills that most of us wouldn’t be able to obtain even if we trained our entire lives. They have an innate capability for handling the pressure in addition to the car itself, they are somewhat effortlessly able to translate fear into motivation… they are a different breed. But, they are still human.
So I warn you, as I did on Twitter last night, to think before you comment. Think before you make short-sighted assumptions about someone’s drive or make hindsight commentary of what could have happened, should have occurred, or would have been. Unless you are behind that wheel, or inside the pit box as a member of that team, you don’t know. Don’t insult the entire industry that you claim to be a fan of, by thinking you know better. You don’t.
Pippa Mann did something yesterday that further increased my already immense respect for her – she came into a crowded media center and addressed all of us after what I can only assume was one of the most difficult days of her career. Her poise and focus were admirable and she absolutely deserves to be commended. She was visibly devastated and still maintained such professionalism.
I want to share her entire statement with you because she eloquently describes the obstacles she and her team faced and how they never stopped fighting towards their goal, and I think everyone should have the chance to read it for themselves:
“Coming into this May, I knew things were going to be tough. I normally get time in an IndyCar once a year. With a new aero package, not getting to do any of the testing ahead of time because we don’t have a budget that allows for that. All of the people who have supported me to be here, Dale Coyne Racing, the entire crew on my car, worked so hard to turn that car over from a road course car to an oval car so we could shake it down, get me through my refresher on Tuesday.
Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll be honest with you, we thought things were going pretty well. The car handled great. It was really good. It was pretty good in traffic. We thought things were rolling along pretty nicely. The no tow reports, they looked fine.
Then yesterday morning, I rolled out, 226 out of the box. Great, this isn’t bad. Now let’s trim the car. Nothing. Went through it again, nothing. That’s when we started to realize we might really be in trouble. We tried everything we could think of yesterday. The boys stayed really, really late last night. We pulled the rack off the car, we resanded the car, resanded the floor. We went through all the brakes again because we thought we had some brakes that were dragging a little bit out.
I knew if everything we did last night still hadn’t made us go faster, we were going to be in trouble today. But you have to try and get out there anyway. When we got back in line for the last run, we took every single trim we could possibly could to the racecar, we did everything.
Obviously it wasn’t enough. What’s worse, it was slower than our time before. Once you pulled your time, if the car is still functioning, you kind of have to finish the run because what if somebody in front of me didn’t get through tech and I withdrew and didn’t complete my run and pulled off the racetrack?
It’s the worst feeling in the world. The Donate Life team worked so hard. Earlier today I really thought we were going to get it done. Then we went out, again, for the first run and I knew we were in the fight in final trim. We took it further than any of our cars have gone. Slower?
If we understood what was going on, we wouldn’t be here.”