INDIANAPOLIS — Bumping is back. Abel Motorsports and RC Enerson have secured a deal for the two sides to field the 34th entry for next month’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Enerson and Top Gun Racing were in a legal battle for whom had ownership of the equipment from their failed attempt to make the 33 car field in 2021. Enerson has since won out. However, it took a while, but he finally found a suitor in the Indy NXT team able to put the pieces together to run Enerson next month.
“I can’t thank Bill and John enough for this opportunity to be back at the 500. In the works for many months, the ABEL Motorsports crew is top-notch and loaded with experience well beyond my years. I’m honored to carry the banner for the organization during the Month of May and while it’s going to be a few more weeks until we go on-track, I expect we’ll be up to speed quickly at the Speedway. I’m just so looking forward to climbing behind the wheel of an NTT INDYCAR SERIES machine at IMS once again, so cool!”
Abel Motorsports hasn’t been shy about their aspirations to grow into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. They’ve seen other teams follow this same path. Compete in the Road to Indy and then make a foray into the top step of the ladder at Indy. Run part-time and eventually stair step their ways to a full-time venture up top.
This is part of that process.
Enerson has the equipment, Abel has the desire. Together, they hope to be among the 33 fastest qualifiers on Time Trials weekend.
Abel is a family-owned team. The dad, Bill Abel, is a blue-collar worker. Their livelihood is in construction with Abel Construction. His son, Jacob, has always wanted to race. They’ve merged a construction business into a racing business and off they went.
“We’ve always envisioned the opportunity to enhance our position in the business world by leveraging the unique intersection that racing has with our brand,” said Bill Abel, CEO of ABEL Construction Company. “I can’t think of a better way of bringing that to life with our many customers, partners and associates than showcasing what we can do right here at 16th & Georgetown in Speedway. I’m just so thankful of this opportunity.”
Jacob is in his second season in Indy NXT and isn’t quite ready to the big stage…yet. The 22-year-old was a student at Butler University and off to good start in Indy NXT. The Louisville native hopes to get to Indy one day soon. But until then, this opportunity to team up with Enerson was too good to pass up.
Enerson was fast in the Road to Indy, but struggled to gain the financial assistance to land a full-time INDYCAR ride. He won five times and had nine podiums in a second place finish in the 2014 USF 2000 standings. That led to an Indy NXT ride in 2015 to which he won at Mid-Ohio that year, had five podiums and a fourth place finish in points. A year later he was back with SPM in the same series, but a contract dispute took him out of the car midway through. He was hoping to take his money to an INDYCAR opportunity.
It worked. He made his debut for Dale Coyne Racing at Mid-Ohio. It was a very impressive opening start for him. His second appearance came at Watkins Glen for which he scored a top 10 that day. He ran the season finale at Sonoma. It took three years for his next opportunity with Carlin at Mid-Ohio in 2019. Then, the next appearance was at Indy with Top Gun in 2021.
Two years later, he’s back.
The question now is, can they do enough to make the field?
ABEL Motorsports is comprised of veteran NTT INDYCAR SERIES engineers and crew, that began preparing the No. 50 entry for Enerson in early January with a focus on kicking off the month of May in strong fashion when official practice begins on the 16th.
“It’s going to be a thrill watching RC pilot the No. 50 Chevy around the Speedway and we believe it sets a very positive tone of what’s to come for ABEL Motorsports in the future,” said John Brunner, Team Manager. “As has been speculated, we are evaluating a full-time entry for the 2024 INDYCAR Season and our group is committed to building the foundation needed for sustainable long-term success in motorsports. A huge thanks to INDYCAR and Chevrolet for their efforts in making this happen.”
This is the fourth time in the last six years that we’ve had bumping. However, this is the fewest entries since 2015 when bumping has occurred.
In 2018, there were 35 cars for 33 spots. A year later, 36 cars showed up. 35 more cars were here in 2021. Now, it appears the field is set at 34 with Honda already saying that they had no interest in an 18th engine package while Chevrolet seems to run out of options for an 18th package on their end.
With that said, does it make any sense to bump one car?
In this day-and-age, I caution that this is the right thing to do. I get it, bumping is bumping and it makes qualifying weekend more exciting. However, does bumping one car make it all that much better?
Yes, six times since 2012 have we not seen any bumping whatsoever including two of the last three years. I get the tradition of 33 cars on race day. But, does sending one car home really make all that much of a difference?
It has lasting implications for the one that doesn’t make it. More times than not, the car and driver that gets bumped, doesn’t end up coming back.
The series is after growth and sending someone home likely is a death sentence for not only the driver, but that team too.
In the five years since 2012 that we had bumping, only two drivers are still around. That’s Pato O’Ward and Enerson. Neither are with the teams that they missed the show with.
In 2013, there were 34 cars for 33 spots. RLL brought out a third car for Michel Jordain Jr. He wasn’t quick enough. Jourdain would never return. RLL didn’t come back with a third car for the next three years.
In 2015, there were 34 more cars for 33 spots. Buddy Lazier missed the show. The only reason they elected to come back the next two years was to fill the field. If there were bumping, they’d likely not have came back. In 2018, when there was, they skipped and haven’t returned since.
Dale Coyne Racing (Pippa Mann) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe) both missed the show in 2018. Both were back in 2019, however, that was Mann’s last. Both her and her sponsor haven’t returned. Hinchcliffe raced for SPM for one more year but was let go after the 2019 season.
In 2019, three cars were bumped, two of which from Carlin. The other Fernando Alonso at McLaren. That McLaren team merged with SPM for 2020 and Carlin scaled back from two cars to one a year later. They’d never run a second car again and by 2022, they were out of the series completely.
2021 was the last time we witnessed any bumping. It was Enerson and Top Gun as well was Charlie Kimball and Foyt. Top Gun came back for the road course race that year but never again while Kimball and Foyt’s fourth haven’t been back.
Kimball’s long-time sponsor hasn’t returned either.
My fear is, whomever misses the show next month, won’t be here in 2024. That seems to be the route this is going and in an era to where money is so tough to come by, is it worth it sending one car home?
Think of where this field would be if Foyt made the 2021 show with Kimball. Same for Top Gun. Same for Carlin in 2019 if at least one of their cars made it.
I don’t think you lose those teams. Top Gun could be full-time by now. Carlin could still be here full-time. Foyt could still be showing up with an Indy only entry.
I think most would assume the 33rd and final spot would come down to this Enerson/Abel entry vs. Katherine Legge/RLL deal. But, what happens if a full-time car gets pushed down there? It nearly happened in 2021 with Will Power.
I get the pressure and storylines around a big team showing up for the Last Row Shootout, but is the risk woth it if they don’t make it? What’s the long-term gain? Do you really want to risk losing a large sponsor and cost a full time driver a future in this series?
I get the aesthetics and drama that this builds off of. But, I also fear of the lasting impacts moving forward for the team that fails to make it too.
Either way, by not having the 34th car here at this week’s test, you risk not making the field. The two cars that didn’t test in 2021 were the only two cars to miss the field in that’s year’s race.
The bottom eight on the 2021 open test speed chart saw five of which start 25th or worse.
Last year, while there was no bumping, 5 of the bottom six on the second day speed chart started 25th or worse including 4 of which taking spots in the last 2 Rows. Stefan Wilson was the only entry not to test and he started last.
Andretti Autosport (5) – Colton Herta (No. 26), Kyle Kirkwood (No. 27), Romain Grosjean (No. 28), Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 29), Marco Andretti (No. 98).
Chip Ganassi Racing (4) – Marcus Ericsson (No. 8), Scott Dixon (No. 9), Alex Palou (No. 10), Takuma Sato (No. 11)
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (4) – Graham Rahal (No. 15), Jack Harvey (No. 30), Katherine Legge (No. 44), Christian Lundgaard (No. 45).
Meyer Shank Racing (2) – Helio Castroneves (No. 06), Simon Pagenaud (No. 60).
Dale Coyne Racing (2) – David Malukas (No. 18), Sting Ray Robb R (No. 51).
Arrow McLaren SP (4) – Pato O’Ward (No. 5), Felix Rosenqvist (No. 6), Alexander Rossi (No. 7), Tony Kanaan (No. 66)
Team Penske (3) – Will Power (No. 1), Josef Newgarden (No. 2), Scott McLaughlin (No. 3)
Ed Carpenter Racing (3) – Conor Daly (No. 20), Rinus VeeKay (No. 21), Ed Carpenter (No. 33)
AJ Foyt Racing (2) –Santino Ferrucci (No. 14), Benjamin Pedersen (No. 55)
Juncos Hollinger Racing (2) – Callum Ilott (No. 77) and Agustin Canapino (No. 78)
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (2) – Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 23), Stefan Wilson (No. 24)
Abel Motorspors (1) – RC Enerson (No. 50)