In a perfect world, drivers drive to get a position on the 33 car grid for America’s biggest, and most prestigious, motorsports race held each year at the race track located in the town of Speedway, Indiana.
Last Sunday, the 33 car field gets filled up and then drivers line up to try to out qualify the drivers that had made it into the field and, through a faster result of speed over a 10 mile, four lap qualifying run “Bump” qualified drivers out of the line-up.
Andretti Autosport struggled to get their four cars up to the speed the rest of the field was setting all week leading up to this critical test … the final day for qualifications to race in the Indianapolis 500.
Marco Andretti, who had been bumped out six minutes earlier by a faster run put in by Alex Lloyd (with a four-lap speed of 223.957 mph), needed to find the speed that eluded Andretti Autosport for most of the week if he were to get back in. Lloyd, competing on ovals for Dale Coyne Racing, finished fourth in last year’s race, directly behind Andretti.
On the last run of the day, Marco delivered a clutch professional run, posting a four-lap average of 224.628 miles per hour to move back into the field of 33 for the 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500.
In the process, however, Marco Andretti bumped his teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, from the field. It was a bittersweet day for Andretti Autosport, as the team qualified just two of its full-time drivers for the 500, Andretti and Danica Patrick.
Hunter-Reay never had a chance after being bumped, as the gun sounded at 6 p.m. while Andretti was on the track. Mike Conway, who won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach earlier in the year, could not post a qualifying speed in three attempts on Sunday.
Again, in a perfect world, this would be the end of Bump Day, but this Monday, a deal was struck between AJ Foyt, Michael Andretti, and Ryan Hunter-Reay to place the bumped Andretti Autosport driver back in the Indianapolis 500 at the expense of Bruno Junqueira.
Hunter-Reay will drive the No. 41 car of A.J. Foyt Racing, which will get the entrant points earned. Hunter-Reay will get the driver points.
The car will carry sponsorship decals of both the RHR Andretti Autosport and AJ Foyt teams.
Per race rules, driver changes move the car to the back of the grid, No. 33 overall. Junqueira qualified 19th.
Junqueira is the odd man out for the second time in three years. In 2009, Conquest Racing pulled him for its primary driver, Alex Tagliani, who sits on the pole this year.
Foyt said the opportunity was attractive to him because, as AJ put it, I’m “fielding the car out of my own pocket.” Foyt expects to get a majority share of the Hunter-Reay sponsorship money from DHL, Sun Drop and the rest of the Andretti Autosport sponsorship decal program.
100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 Grid (adjusted to reflect the Foyt, Andretti, & Hunter-Reay deal):
1. (77) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.2613 (227.472)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.3528 (227.340)
3. (2) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.4727 (227.168)
4. (99) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.6696 (226.887)
5. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.7493 (226.773)
6. (98) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.9477 (226.171)
7. (44) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.4431 (225.786)
8. (67) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.9137 (225.121)
9. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.0253 (226.379)
10. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.4785 (225.736)
11. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5814 (225.590)
12. (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5895 (225.579)
13. (06) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5942 (225.572)
14. (30) Bertrand Baguette, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.7973 (225.285)
15. (11) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.8223 (225.250)
16. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.8464 (225.216)
17. (43) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.0133 (224.981)
18. (59) EJ Viso, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.1907 (224.732)
20. (22) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3488 (224.511)
21. (88) Jay Howard, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3685 (224.483)
22. (07) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4040 (224.433)
23. (82) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4156 (224.417)
24. (78T) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4335 (224.392)
25. (23) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, (224.939)
26. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, (224.861)
27. (6T) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, (224.639)
28. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, (224.628)
29. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, (224.499)
30. (38) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, (224.380)
31. (19) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, (223.957)
32. (36) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, (223.936)
33. (24) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, (223.879)
19. (41) Bruno Junqueira, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.2203 (224.691) – Replaced by Ryan Hunter-Reay and will start in the 33rd and last position.
Michael Andretti – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Andretti Autosport, concerned about the reaction of fans who think that this move is just not right said,“The fastest 33 cars are what qualify for the Indy 500 and that’s always been the case. We’re not doing anything that changes that. This has happened before. One of the greatest finishes in Indy 500 history, in 1992, involved a car that had a driver change before the race. Scott Goodyear replaced Mike Groff and Scott nearly won the race. It’s not a new thing.”
“I disagree with the idea that we are doing something to hurt the integrity of the Indy 500. We would never do that – ever. The rule is the fastest 33 cars make the race – not the 33 fastest drivers. And, that is what will be on track Sunday.”
So, on this 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500 – set to be broadcast on ABC May 29th beginning at 11am EST, Bump Day gets extended to off-track deal making on Monday.
… notes from The EDJE