The dynamic behavior of a rolling element bearing under auxiliary operation in rotor/magnetic bearing systems is analyzed. When contact with the rotor occurs, the inner race experiences high impact forces and rapid angular acceleration. A finite element model is used to account for flexibility of the inner race in series with non-linear ball stiffnesses arising from the ball-race contact zones. The dynamic conditions during rotor/inner race contact, including ball/race creep, are deduced from a non-linear matrix equation. The influences of bearing parameters are considered together with implications for energy dissipation in the bearing.