With a pair of multi-car teams having missed the cut to compete in the 102nd Indy 500, what happens to the crew members from the bumped entries?
In the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports camp with James Hinchcliffe’s full-time No. 5 Honda crew, SPM general manager Piers Phillips has come up with two smart uses for the squad led by chief mechanic Billy Vincent.
“They went, straight away, into preparing our Detroit cars,” Phillips told RACER. “We had the chance to get an early start there because normally, it would be something everyone approached right after the race in a mad scramble to get everything done. It’s part of the compressed schedule between Indy and Detroit the following weekend, so we had the luxury, albeit one we did not anticipate, to put the guys to work getting the road course cars for James and Robert [Wickens] done early.”
If using the No. 5 team to prep Wickens’ No. 6 SPM Honda sounds unusual, Phillips says it’s a practice the team has embraced.
“Many teams do not do it this way; I believe Penske does, but we went away from having the same crew prepare the same car every race to a different model where the same people prepare all of our cars,” he added. “It took some time for everyone to buy into it, but we have front-end mechanics, middle mechanics who look after the cockpit and center of the cars, and rear-end mechanics. And they work down the line on however many cars we’re running so that everyone has a sense of pride with every car. There’s no ‘my car,’ or ‘his car.’ They’re all built together, to the same standard, by the same people.”
On race day, Hinchcliffe’s over-the-wall crew will service Jay Howard’s No. 7 SPM Honda.
“Their record in the [Indy 500] Pit Stop Competition is well known,” Phillips said. “So naturally, we wanted to put them on Jay’s car for the race.”
At Dale Coyne Racing, the No. 63 crew supporting Pippa Mann’s Indy-only entry was brought in specifically to look after her Honda-powered car. After being bumped from the field, DCR team manager Terry Brown says two groups of thought came forth.
“About half decided to leave, and the other half, who come to be part of the race in any circumstance, stayed,” he said. “So, we have used some of the guys to help move pit equipment back to the shop [in Illinois], and there are a couple that will be repurposed to our three other cars.”
Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 and Mann’s No. 63 won’t take the green flag on Sunday, but most of the crew behind those cars will be helping their teams in the best ways possible.