Join motor sports insider Nathan Brown as he recaps the final day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
With no on-track action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from late Sunday evening to Friday morning’s Carb Day, someone needed to spice things up.
Except, they appear to have only gotten halfway through, leaving Alexander Rossi’s golf cart on blocks and his tires on top of a nearby RV in the bus lot.
Needless to say, whoever the culprit may be, they don’t get Rossi’s vote for this year’s nonexistent Pit Stop Challenge.
The prank amid four days of downtime around IMS was the talk of Indy 500 media day Thursday. Suspects were identified, while others are just happy the good-natured ribbing is back after a hiatus.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in anything like that, but I do love watching the outcome of everything that happens,” said Colton Herta, who was listed as a suspect by teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay. “I think it’s incredibly enjoyable for me, personally.”
Added Scott Dixon: “It’s actually good to see it’s making a bit of a return. It’s actually been pretty calm and quiet in the motor home lot, so that was pretty cool. I don’t know where they found the cinder blocks, but that was a nice touch.”
The timeline is still vague, but here’s what we know. Rossi posted a photo to Twitter at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday announcing the hilarity and, as James Hinchcliffe tells it, Rossi was livid at the gym.
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Alexander Rossi (27) of Andretti Autosport shares a laugh with James Hinchcliffe (5) of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports following his qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500 on Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 19, 2019. (Photo: Kristin Enzor/For IndyStar)
“I was grilled at length. I was suspect No. 1, which hurts my feelings a bit,” Hinchcliffe said Thursday in his best district attorney impersonation. “I was approached by the victim at the gym where we train together the morning of the incident and was immediately accused of something I knew nothing about.”
Rossi dug through Hinchcliffe’s phone, scouring his texts with “possible suspects.”
“Once it was established I wasn’t involved with the crime at hand, I vowed to help him find those responsible and exact revenge,” he said.
“As an honorary member of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Police Department and security staff, I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation. I can simply say we’ve narrowed down the culprits to two suspects. We’ve basically confirmed their identities. As there is no prison on the property, the only appropriate resource is revenge, which is being plotted as we speak. Like I said, I can’t comment further at this time, but keep track on social media, and it’ll be revealed soon. Everyone with access to the bus lot has been considered a suspect and should be considered as such until we reveal what we know.”
But that didn’t prevent from drivers with weighing in.
Dixon, as well as Patricio O’Ward’s, best guesses? Rossi’s mechanics. “It was put on bricks. It can’t just be one guy,” O’Ward said. “I don’t know man, it’s actually pretty funny. I’d go with his team before I thought another driver did it.”
Tony Kanaan, a legendary prankster himself, voted for Rossi’s longtime friend Conor Daly. So did Fernando Alonso. And Daly, who’s been victim to a massive paddock prank before, was offended by the accusation, and he knows the frustration of falsely accusing someone for far too long.
The evening of Indy 500 media day in 2017, Daly returned to a motorhome filled to the brim with confetti and glitter-filled balloons, along with scattered Solo cups filled with water. He slept horribly that night, having popped the bare minimum of balloons to get into bed. The next day, he and his mom spent four to five hours cleaning up the mess.
He spent the rest of the season accusing Hinchcliffe and Kanaan every chance he got.
“And it was my crew guys at (A.J. Foyt Racing). They surprised me with a birthday cake with an edible photograph of them in my bus, all with ‘thumbs up’ and all the debris,” Daly said. “And once Alex gets his head set on something, he’s very confident about it. I was with him on the Amazing Race, and sometimes he was confident on where we were going, but he was wrong.
“It is an incorrect path, but I’m afraid he’ll do something terrible to, potentially, the wrong people. It’ll still be funny, I’m sure it will be – but not for the victims. I hope he waits till Monday.”
Initially, Rossi brushed off any questions about the stunt. “Yep, I’ve got it. We’re good. We’ve got them, we can talk about something else,” he said. “Don’t you worry.”
But his arrival at media day with Daly as Herta was leaving sparked a funny exchange between the trio, via hushed whispers through face masks too quiet for media to hear. Accusations and alibis were likely exchanged.
“It was Conor, Conor, I promise,” Rossi said as he left.
Teammates Conor Daly (25) of Andretti Autosport shares a laugh with Alexander Rossi (27) during Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, May 24, 2019. (Photo: Gary Mook/For IndyStar)
Whether it was Rossi’s crew members or a single (or multitude) of drivers, Hunter-Reay thinks it has to have been an Andretti Autosport inside job. Though he chuckled at a question asking if he had an alibi – “Nope,” he laughed – he felt praise was deserved for whoever pulled it off.
“That’s one of the better ones,” he said. “We’re always hiding each other’s golf carts in strange places. I tried to get James’ into an elevator the other day, but (the elevator) wasn’t quite big enough though.”
Fellow Andretti driver Zach Veach agrees. He actually feels he was framed – the jack was left in front of his bus. But the congrats are deserved not just for the ingenuity, he said, but the utter silence.
“Whoever did it, I’m insanely proud of,” he said. “Because I would have talked about it now if I pulled something like that off. I wouldn’t have been this quiet about it, and whoever did it managed to get it done.
“Hats off to them.”