Indy 500 development puts everybody at risk in 2024

No matter who you are, the existence of an Indy 500 Bump Day can bite you. Indianapolis Motor Speedway does not play favorites.
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, IndyCar, Indy 500
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, IndyCar, Indy 500 / SOPA Images/GettyImages

The reported addition of Abel Motorsports and their No. 50 Chevrolet to the entry list for this year's Indy 500 means that there are 34 cars lined up to qualify for the race's 108th running in May, ensuring that at least one driver will be left on the outside looking in.

Should all of the confirmed entries remain confirmed and all of the widely expected entries -- specifically Marco Andretti's Andretti Global entry -- officially be added to the list, it will mark the third time in the last four years that bumping has been required to set the field of 33.

And as anybody in IndyCar knows, Indianapolis Motor Speedway does not play favorites. There is no charter system or guaranteed starting spot just because you paid your way in.

Your name, your car, your car owner -- none of it matters when it comes to the Indy 500.

To get into the race when there are more than 32 others trying to do the same, you actually do have to make a qualifying attempt -- and a successful one, at that.

Just ask Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway, a pair of full-time drivers who missed the 2011 race, or James Hinchcliffe, a championship contender before his shocking 2018 DNQ.

Just ask McLaren and their multi-million-dollar hospitality chalet what it's really like to take a championship-winning Formula 1 program with a two-time world champion driver in Fernando Alonso and go up against a relatively unknown, small, underfunded Juncos Racing IndyCar team -- and their college student driver in Kyle Kaiser. Who won that battle in 2019?

Then there is last year, when Graham Rahal was the only driver bumped out of the race after watching teammate Jack Harvey beat him by a couple inches as the clock struck 0:00 -- probably more devastating than watching his Ohio State Buckeyes miss a game-winning field goal that would have clinched a championship game berth as the clock struck midnight on New Year's Day just a few months prior.

By the end of the 2023 season, nobody had more pole positions than Rahal. Nobody had more DNQs either.

These are just a few relatively recent examples. Once upon a time, Team Penske couldn't even qualify for the race. Will Power almost got a taste of that in 2021, when he quite literally needed to hit the wall to keep enough momentum to get in with a car that was just inexplicably slow.

Bottom line, when there are 34 or more, nobody is safe. Nobody. And it's still only early January; that 34 could become 35 or 36 or even more by the time the month of May rolls around.

Next. IndyCar fans saddened by the end of an annual tradition. IndyCar fans saddened by the end of an annual tradition. dark

Indy 500 qualifying is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19, and the 108th running of the race itself is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 26. Josef Newgarden, who had to sign off on withdrawing his name from the race entirely just to make another qualifying run in 2023, is the reigning race winner. Alex Palou started on pole.