Without doubt, Bump Day for the Indianapolis 500 is one of the greatest day’s in the motor racing calendar.
It is a six hour span that sees tension, drama and conviction come to the fore — and occasionally controversy also reigns, as it did last night.
When Andretti-Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay failed to qualify for the 500 mile race come Sunday evening, talks began to buy a spot on the grid for the beleaguered American.
By early Monday night, it had been confirmed that Bruno Junqueira – driving a second, one-off entry for Foyt Enterprises – had been removed from his seat and replaced by Hunter-Reay.
In this situation, Hunter-Reay will start the race from 33rd and last place (Junqueira had qualified 19th on Pole Day), in a car run by Foyt, but with a mixture of Foyt and Andretti sponsors.
For a team that won the great race twice in recent years (2005 and 2007), Andretti-Autosport sure struggle to qualify for the Indy 500 nowadays, especially considering their troubles last year too. Perhaps, with four drivers, the team stretched far too thinly for the people that work there now.
In a press release thereafter, AJ Foyt stated:
“We’ve been competitors for many years but still it’s the kind of relationship when someone is really down and out, you can’t turn your back on them – at least I can’t.”
Kicking your own driver to the kerb was probably not the best way to show your intentions, AJ. Foyt also said that:
“This is going back to the way racing used to be, where if people were in a lot of trouble, you tried to help each other out.”
Sorry AJ, but just because racing used to be that doesn’t mean it is right. Times have changed and maybe the way to do business in racing has to change with it.”
Michael Andretti also revealed that:
“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.”
Again Mike, just because something worked twenty years ago does not mean it passes mustard today.
As much as I feel bad for Bruno, I also feel bad for the people who turned up at the Speedway.to see the drama unfold. The folks that paid hard money to see the field filled, only to find the result changed thereafter – memories of the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix spring to mind.
What’s especially sad is that AJ did not replace one of his own drivers with another, but that he sold his entry to a completely different team.
The IndyCar Series has had plenty of troubles over the years – whether they be the split, the proliferation of drivers with questionable talents and sizeable wallets or an occasionally curious application of the rules – it’s seen it all.
If the series really wants to be taken seriously, steps need to be taken to ensure this situation does not happen again – and that may mean changing the rules regarding the entry lists for race participation; something the team owners may rally against.
Yes, racing is a business and an expensive one at that, but it is very hard to do business if no one is buying your product and while this situation will certainly not see huge drop in fans, it is another example of the erosion of integrity that the series continues to endure.
And that is sad.
For the record, Paul Tracy, Ryan Briscoe, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal, Pippa Mann and Ana Beatriz all got in with their first runs before rain came. The tension sky-rocketed when it looked as if series star Danica Patrick would not make the show, but once the track was dry and the sky had brightened, the Andretti-Autosport driver qualified with ease.
With ten minutes remaining, Alex Lloyd pulled together a bonzai run to put his Dale Coyne prepared car into the field to bump Marco Andretti, before Andretti himself bumped teammate Hunter-Reay.
The final Andretti-Autosport driver, Mike Conway also could not get up to speed, while Raphael Matos (AFS), James Jakes (Dale Coyne) and Sebastian Saavedra (Conquest) also failed to make the grade.
Dragon Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung was a shoe-in to qualify on Pole Day until he smashed receiving a concussion. The second Dragon car – originally to be taken by Scott Speed – was crashed by replacement driver Patrick Carpentier during practice. The Canadian was unhurt.
Pos Driver Team Speed 1. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt 227.472mph 2. Scott Dixon Ganassi 227.340mph 3. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 227.168mph 4. Townsend Bell Sam Schmidt 226.887mph 5. Will Power Penske 226.773mph 6. Dan Wheldon Herta 226.490mph 7. Buddy Rice Panther 225.786mph 8. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher 225.121mph 9. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 10. Takuma Sato KV 225.736mph 11. Vitor Meira Foyt 225.590mph 12. JR Hildebrand Panther 225.579mph 13. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 225.572mph 14. Bertrand Baguette Rahal Letterman Lanigan 225.285mph 15. Davey Hamilton Dreyer & Reinbold 225.250mph 16. Helio Castroneves Penske 225.216mph 17. John Andretti Petty/Andretti 224.981mph 18. EJ Viso KV 224.732mph Bruno Junqueira Foyt 224.691mph** (Removed) 19. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 224.511mph 20. Jay Howard Rahal/Schmidt 224.483mph 21. Tomas Scheckter KV/SH 224.433mph 22. Tony Kanaan KV 224.417mph 23. Simona de Silvestro HVM 224.392mph 24. Paul Tracy Dreyer & Reinbold 224.939mph 25. Danica Patrick Andretti 224.861mph 26. Ryan Briscoe Penske 224.639mph 27. Marco Andretti Andretti 224.628mph 28. Charlie Kimball Ganassi 224.499mph 29. Graham Rahal Ganassi 224.380mph 30. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 223.957mph 31. Pippa Mann Conquest 223.936mph 32. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 223.879mph 33. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti (no speed) Did not qualify: Raphael Matos AFS Mike Conway Andretti James Jakes Dale Coyne Sebastian Saavedra Conquest Ho-Pin Tung Schmidt/Dragon Scott Speed Dragon 2011 IndyCar Series (Round 5, Qualifying) Pos Driver Team Points 1. Will Power Penske 178 2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 160 3. Oriol Servia Newman-Haas 122 4. Ryan Briscoe Penske 104 5. Tony Kanaan KV Racing 103 6. Mike Conway Andretti-Autosport 102 7. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt Motorsports 100 8. Scott Dixon Ganassi 97 9. Graham Rahal Ganassi 85 10. Takuma Sato KV Racing 84 11. Simona de Silvestro HVM Racing 82 12. Vitor Meira Foyt Enterprises 81