By: Tanner Watkins
May 18, 2019 | 7:30 PM
When the gun sounded on today’s first round of Indianapolis 500 qualifications, it capped a year of motivation, emotion and eventually, elation, for Pippa Mann.
Sitting on the 30th place bubble, Graham Rahal rolled off as the final driver in line to make a qualifications attempt just before the 5:50 PM deadline at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Since Mann was sitting 29th-fastest at the time, Rahal’s last run of the day meant the worst position she could end up Saturday would be 30th – the final locked-in qualifying position in this newest format of Indy 500 qualifications.
The breakthrough was understandably emotional for Mann, who was denied a place in last year’s race after being one of the two drivers bumped from the 2018 field.
“For a 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,” said Mann once she knew the No. 39 Clauson-Marshall Racing entry was safe.
“I thought I was staring down last year again. I am so proud of this Clauson-Marshall Racing Driven2SaveLives team. We made it, we are locked in, we made it!”
Throughout the week, the Clauson-Marshall team had been quietly confident that their no-tow rankings would bear fruit during Saturday’s first round of qualifications. On Saturday, Mann stepped up and put in one run that was strong enough to stand on for the entire day.
Yes, they made it by the skin of their teeth, but it is incredibly important that this No. 39 team does not have to endure what will be an agonizing Sunday for established teams like McLaren, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Now Mann and her team have an entire week to prepare for next Sunday’s 500-mile race. It is a luxury for them to know that they are in, and now the focus shifts to race pace and preparations for running in a pack. It appears that weather will likely nix tomorrow’s three-hour practice session, so that would leave short sessions on Monday and Friday to get ready for the race.
The margin for error is still slim, but Pippa Mann, Tim Clauson and the rest of the Clauson-Marshall/Driven2SaveLives team can rest easy tonight knowing that they are officially in the show. And you know what? They deserve it as much as anyone.
Header image by James Black/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.