INDIANAPOLIS – This isn’t a dig at either driver or either of their respective teams, but if you had to predict the three drivers that were going to be bumped from the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network) field this year, Ben Hanley and Pippa Mann’s names would be among them.
Mann, most recently missed the cut just last year after being bumped in the closing minutes exactly one year ago. She didn’t let that define the end of her racing career. She sat in a suite with Tim Clauson, owner of Clauson-Marshall Racing on race day last year and the two with polar opposite racing backgrounds decided to team up for a run at it in 2019.
Mann, a road racer by nature and Clauson, a dirt racing background with his late son Bryan Clauson, formed an unlikely combination as owner (Clauson) of a new team and driver (Mann) of that start up.
While making the field is always the goal, it’s just tough to do so as a start up operation. Just ask McLaren Racing who with a world champion driver in Fernando Alonso didn’t even make the field yet in his No. 66 Chevrolet.
From tears of sadness last year to tears of joy this one, Mann is in the field now after qualifying on Saturday with a four lap average of 227.244 mph in her No. 39 Chevrolet.
It wasn’t easy though. While she was in, she anxiously sat in her car waiting her turn to go back out as she thought 2019 was going to end a lot like 2018.
“We had hoped for a little more speed than that in our qualifying run,” said Mann who was the last car to make it and will start 30th. “We’re a one-off team running our first Indy 500, with a one-off driver. After everything last year, that’s what we’re interested in right now.
“From the moment there, when we were sitting in line and the weather conditions changed and the track was getting faster, I thought we’d made the wrong decision. I thought I was staring down last year again. I am so proud of this Clauson Marshall Racing Driven2SaveLives team.
“We made it! We’re locked in! We made it! Thank you!”
For Hanley, this was a brand new team too. DragonSpeed had only made two career NTT IndyCar Series starts, both coming this year. Hanley, started 12th and finished 18th in the season opener at St. Pete and qualified last and finished 21st in Barber.
After how this week went, he was on the brink of not making it.
Hanley, initially was in good shape but was later bumped. He went out again, then was bumped again. But, his third run he turned heads. He found the speed that it took and qualified his No. 81 Chevrolet 27th.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Hanley. “We’ve been pretty quiet, keeping to ourselves, just trying to work through this place. Some days, it’s nice when it’s calm and still, and the balance stays equal. Even the first half hour, it was pretty still.
“One of the reasons we have made it is because of the guys who aren’t here. It is a massive team involvement and we all understand it.”
Hanley, said his final run was the best that his car had felt all week and despite taking a little bit of a risk on the last lap, he is solidly in.