LONG POND, Pa. – Pippa Mann took time following Saturday’s final practice for the ABC Supply 500 to head outside Pocono Raceway’s main grandstand and visit with a group of girls competing in the USAC .25 national quarter midget races on a small, temporary oval set up in a parking lot.
Designed as an inspirational appearance to show the young females that they can achieve their dreams if they are persistent, the meeting was most appropriate considering the day Mann had inside on the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle.”
Struggling throughout practice and Verizon P1 Award qualifications in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, Mann was the slowest of all drivers who made a qualifying attempt with a two-lap average of 211.267 mph. She will start 21st in today’s race (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network), ahead only of defending ABC Supply 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, who crashed his primary car in morning practice and opted not to make a qualifications attempt in his backup car.
Mann called it “a challenging weekend” following Saturday’s late-afternoon final practice, where she was slowest of the 22 cars with a best lap of 210.666 mph. She pointed to several factors for the disappointing performance thus far:
“It’s really hard for us as an entire team, having missed the test here last week,” said Mann, whose Verizon IndyCar Series career of 14 previous starts since 2011 have all come at oval events and whose lone Indy Lights win was at Kentucky Speedway in 2010. “Obviously it’s very difficult with Conor being a rookie and me not being in a car since May. I just think ‘challenging’ is the appropriate word.”
Mann, who turned 33 on Aug. 11, thought she could rely on her past Pocono experience to pull her through. The Brit tied her career best with a 13th-place finish at the Pennsylvania track in 2015. Today will mark her third race on the triangular-shaped oval.
“When I get in an Indy car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Mann explained, “I have been lucky enough to do that enough times now (five) that I get in the car and I instinctively sort of know what it’s going to feel like. I know what the track’s going to be, I sort of know what it’s going to do.
“Having raced here twice before, I felt I would be able to get in cold and do the same thing. To be honest with you, that didn’t happen in the first session (Saturday) morning. It’s only taken until the warmup (Saturday) afternoon where I’m starting to get to be doing what I need to be doing inside the car, but at the same time we still have work to do as an entire team.”
Mann said her crew was making changes to the car overnight to get it dialed in better for the 200-lap race.
“Our goal is to get ourselves in the window,” she said. “We didn’t come here to run around and have this happen. We came here to try and finish in the top 15, like I have done my past two starts here. We came here trying to crack the top 10 for the first time.
“The good news is it’s a 500-mile race, so we’re going to do our very best to get it right when we roll out there. But if we don’t, with a bit of luck, hopefully we can leave ourselves some adjustability over the 500 miles to try and get better.”