Pippa Mann’s hopes of becoming the first woman to taste victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were destroyed when she was wiped out of the Firestone Freedom 100 by the spinning car of an opponent.
The 26-year-old Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver started the race as the first female pole-sitter in 101 years of competition at the venerable circuit, but her car bogged down at the start and she had dropped to fifth by the second lap.
Ahead of her, Jeff Simmons attempted a pass up the inside of Martin Plowman but found there wasn’t enough room. His lower wheels ran on the white line marking the edge of the track, his car span out of control, and there in its path was Mann.
The impact sent her hard into the wall at turn two, wrecking one wheel, smashing off the car’s nose and sending the #11 machine sliding out of control along most of the length of the back straight.
Mann said: “The engine was hitting the rev limiter at the start and I dropped back to fifth place, but the car felt good and I knew we were in a good position. We just needed to stay out of trouble.
“Unfortunately, Jeff was forced down onto the white line and his car just spun in front of me. There was nothing he could really do, and I tried to avoid him as best I could but, in reality, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time today.
“I’m so disappointed because we were quick and I wanted a chance at winning the Freedom 100, but it wasn’t my day today.”
Instead the win went to her team-mate for the race Wade Cunningham, a two-time former Firestone Freedom 100 winner who replaced Britain’s James Winslow in the #77 Lucas Oil/BSS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car for the event.
He and Plowman both passed Mann at the start but, while Plowman faded to finish fifth, Cunningham spent the rest of the race at or near the front and fought a thrilling duel with Plowman’s team-mate Charlie Kimball.
Cunningham said: “The car was great in the draft and it was pretty easy for me to pass Charlie – both times he got in front I didn’t panic because I knew in a couple of laps I’d be back in front.”
Schmidt said: “Wade is just a consummate professional and he loves this place. He hand-worked on that car for a week to make it ready for this race. He never left the shop, and it showed today.”
As well as Plowman in fifth and Mann classified in 16th and last place, British interest was represented by Dan Clarke in fourth place and Stefan Wilson in seventh.
JK Vernay retains the lead of the championship by five points from Kimball despite suffering an engine failure at the start that left him six laps down while his team fixed it. James Hinchcliffe, who finished third in the race, occupies the same position in the championship while Plowman is fourth.