The disappointment of failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 is considered by many drivers to be one of the worst feelings of their life. Not being quick enough when it counts the most can harm the future of the driver and also the team. While most drivers are able to bounce back, some end up never having another opportunity to race at Indy.
As the gun sounded to end qualifying for last year’s 500, all eyes were drawn to James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe would become the first full-time IndyCar driver to fail to qualify for the race since 2011. His disappointment was a highly covered event that sparked debate on whether or not full-time entries should be guaranteed to make the race.
Somewhat lost in all of the commotion was Pippa Mann, who also failed to qualify for the event. While much of the attention was focused on Hinchcliffe, Mann sat in her car taking the traditional post-qualifying photo with tears in her eyes.
“I thought that was it,” says Mann. “I was a one-off driver and I didn’t make the race.” All of her sponsors that helped support her Indy dream were left without a car in the 500. Her team, Dale Coyne Racing, would have to pack up her car and go home. She would have to watch the race as a spectator.
While Pippa Mann watched on as the 102nd Indianapolis 500 began without her, it was a conversation during the race that led her to be able to come back and race again.
Tim Clauson, who three years ago lost his son, former Indianapolis 500 competitor Bryan Clauson in a sprint car accident, was with Mann that day and approached her with an idea.
“I don’t want to see this happen to you again,” Clauson said to Mann. “I have been throwing around this idea of bringing Clauson-Marshall Racing to the 500. Would you be willing to work with me?”
Mann agreed, meaning the anxiety of whether or not she would ever have another chance to run the race again was put at ease. Preparations then began on putting a team together that would give Pippa Mann the best opportunity to qualify for the race.
Over the course of the next 11 months, Pippa Mann continued on with her life. Unlike a lot of drivers in the Indy 500 field, Mann’s primary income source is not from driving race cars.
“I earn my money as a performance driving coach and do speaking engagements,” notes Mann. If that wasn’t already enough, Mann also must act as her own marketing agent to promote herself to sponsors. She does appearances for her sponsors to help promote their brands as well. Mann must also make sure to keep up with her physical fitness so that she is prepared to race whenever she gets the call.
“I try to set aside some time for my friends but that actually gets very difficult sometimes,” she says in regards to how she balances her life off the track. Mann stressed that it was not because there were any issues between her and her friends, but instead she spends so little time at home that she hardly has any time to see them. “I have some very good friends who literally go months without seeing me.”
The sacrifices Pippa Mann makes in her life just to race in the Indianapolis 500 showcase her dedication to not just the sport of auto racing, but also the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It means a huge amount to me to be able to have the opportunity to run in this race,” indicates Mann. She says that she has seen far too many drivers just like her do well in Indy Lights, but only have one shot at running the 500. She isn’t going to sit on the sidelines if she can do something to be in the race.
All of her individual and racing team’s hard work led up to the goal Mann and Clauson-Marshall racing established last May. On the first day of qualifications, Mann drove her #39 Driven2SaveLives Chevrolet in 30th position with a four-lap average of 227.244 mph. While some drivers would be disappointed with qualifying 30th, it was a relief for Mann as she was in the field and did not have a chance of missing the race again. No matter what happened on the second day of qualifications, Pippa Mann was going to be in the 2019 Indianapolis 500.
Now this Sunday, Mann will be able to enjoy the fruits of her labor after a year of waiting and finally start her seventh Indianapolis 500.