Andretti bumps way into Indy 500 in tense day at Indy
Marco, Danica, and Paul Tracy are in the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Andretti Motorsports teammates Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay are out, in one of the most thrilling, nerve-wracking Bump Day finales in recent memory. Perhaps this is because this is the largest, most talented field in recent years, a moment to be savored.
In the waning moments of qualifying Marco Andretti was bumped out of the field when Alex Lloyd pulled a rabbit out of the hat on his third and final attempt.
That put Andretti's teammate on the bubble, Ryan Hunter-Reay.
James Jakes was next up to try but failed on his final attempt.
Then just as the gun sounded to end qualifying Andretti pulled onto the track to try and re-qualify for the greatest race in the world.
And re-qualify he did, turning four laps over 224 mph to make it solidly into the field in 28th.
Unfortunately Andretti's joy was at the expense of teammate Hunter-Reay who was bumped out by Andretti and had no time to try and re-qualify.
Such is the joy and agony of Indy.
For a while, it looked like he would be the last to qualify for the entire day, which would leave Danica Patrick out of the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Fortunately for Danica, the biggest part of the rain went south of the track this time, and she got a chance to put her car into the field around 4:45 pm. She made it count, putting in a speed of 224.861, only a couple of ticks slower than Paul Tracy's earlier run. When asked about her feelings about the way the day went, she said, "I feel I need a couple of drinks." When the laugher subsided, she talked at length about the frustration with the week, and that she had no idea why she was slow at times, and faster at others.
Unfortunately for Andretti Autosport, this left her teammate Marco Andretti on the bubble, and Mike Conway on the outside looking in. Conway hadn't found speed all month, and rumors circulated that he didn't have confidence in his car -- either because of the horrible crash that put him into the hospital in last year's 500, or just the fact that the car seemed to be evil. Attempts by Conway at 4:55 PM and 5:32 PM failed, leaving Marco still on the bubble and Conway heading home for the month.
Later attempts by Alex Lloyd, Raphael Matos and Sebastian Saavedra fell short, but kept Marco (and the rest of the Andretti family) nervous until the closing gun at 6:00 pm EDT. No doubt they will be joining Danica in that drink she talked about earlier.
"As the owner, this is the worst (day) ever..." commented Andretti Autosports owner Michael Andretti.
βIt was interesting to experience the excitement of Bump Day from where I was sitting this morning,β said Briscoe. βI saw Tony Kanaan going through this last year, thinking how awful it must have been. Then here I am in his shoes. It felt great to put together four solid laps during our qualifying session this morning and put together an average that stood up all day.β
Indy 500 Lineup
BUMP DAY QUOTES - May 22, 2011
PIPPA MANN (No. 36 Conquest Racing): "Well, we finally cured the speed problem we had. We've cured our handling issues. We made so many changes overnight. This morning we weren't happy with the car at all. I went out there with no idea of what I was going to have going into that run. I went into and, 'OK, this will work.' I wish I had that knowledge going in, and we could've been a bit braver. I've got all my fingers and all my toes crossed. I know it's bad sportsmanship, but I really hope it rains so that I don't have to do that again. I'm sorry, everyone else. I know it's cruel, but does anyone know a good rain dance? I just look at the sky and think, 'Come on, give me a break; you haven't done it all week.'"
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen): "We knew we missed the speed a little bit yesterday morning. We got the setup wrong. I had a little bit to learn as a rookie. Having said that, the 83 Levemir NovoLog FlexPen car was going to be quick. We knew it was going to be fast. The whole Chip Ganassi Racing crew has given me a good car all month. We just had to go out and do it. Last night, we got caught short by rain trying to get a practice run in. This morning we had traffic. Then we were in line, and it rained. We finally got to go out and put up the number I know we're capable of. I was talking to Arie Luyendyk, who has helped me all month. He said, 'Man, (Turn) 3 and (Turn) 4 take forever.' I said, 'Yeah, absolutely, they do.' It's a long run long around those last two corners to the checkered." (About qualifying for this race): "When I got out of the car I thought, 'I've qualified for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500.' Now it's a dream come true. And to do that as the first licensed driver with diabetes to qualify for the Indy 500 is special; not just for me but for the whole diabetes community out there. I hope I get a chance next Sunday to stop and soak it all in, because it's going to be probably one of the greatest days of my life so far."
ALEX LLOYD (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America): "We're slower again. Since Fast Friday, we were OK. We thought we would be 15th to 20th on the grid at the end of Pole Day. And then we lost a mile an hour Saturday and other mile an hour today. I don't know what's going on with the car because we've been throwing everything at it. We have an issue somewhere. Unless we figure out something big, we'll be in trouble. We're losing so much speed. We're just so slow, and we are running out of time to figure it out. Last year we had speed; this year, we never had great speed but better speed than we're showing now. We're flat out every single lap and going slower."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6T IZOD Team Penske): "The track was pretty good. The wind changed a little bit for my run. It actually died down. We'd been setting it up, and I had been getting prepared for my adjustments for the wind. The conditions were really good. We did a consistent run in the mid 224s, and it felt solid. We made improvements on the car overnight. I just can't tell you how good it feels to get those four laps in. Hopefully, we don't have to be too stressful the rest of the day. I have a great car. I have a great setup. For some reason this T car hasn't been pulling the speeds we've been expecting with what we were seeing with the primary car. Unfortunately, with my crash yesterday, we can't get that back together. We're racing with the T car. We ran it on Opening Day, and it felt great. So I'm just looking forward to the race. We're going to have a great race car. I'm starting in the back, but we'll be able to get to the front. I've got a Roger Penske calling my race, and we want to bring one home for IZOD."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "We can't get any speed out of the car. It's been like that all month, unfortunately. Our team has great race cars - I've been saying that - and if we get in the race, we'll be a contender, but we got to get through qualifying. Hopefully the weather will hold off, and we'll get to work on it a little bit and get it back in line. The last run was just loose. It was sliding around in the rear, eating up all the racetrack. I don't know, we'll see. Luckily there's still some time left. How much? We don't know."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): "I don't think there's a really great answer for why I was faster in qualifying today. I was disappointed with how slow I went at the end. That's Indy. I've always said that this place is its own person. It reads you when you're nervous. It reads you when you're not confident. It reads you when you are. It throws a lot at you, but that's why this is the greatest racetrack in the world." (On what was going through her head before qualifying): "It kind of seemed like everything was just not going the way it needed to go. I just kept going up against things, whether it was not explaining the loss in speed yesterday or going through the tech line and not passing and having to go back through, losing my spot, which was second. It was right where the cutoff was for this morning for the very first round this morning. I would've at least been done and known how fast I was. And then to get in line again after the rain had cleared and have it come with only me left to go, it just kind of seemed like maybe it's just not supposed to happen this year. That's just the roller coaster you ride here. It makes you value the good days even more and it makes you want to try like hell to never have these days ever again." (On how she feels after her run): "I feel like I need a drink. That's really how I feel. I might know after about two of those, maybe even one because I haven't eaten much this weekend. I'm mad. I'm mad because I really thought we had a fast car. I really thought when we started out that we had a fast car that was fast enough to be in the top nine, even. Friday came and that kind of went away a little bit, and then to have it go the way it did, I'm relieved. I'm relieved that I'm in the race. I'm frustrated with some of the process that's happened and some of the things that have happened. I'm excited for everyone that we can go to sleep tonight and know that we're in the race. It's a lot going on, but I'd say I'm between angry and happy. I'm on both ends of the spectrum. I think it's just a lesson that we need to learn why we're fast and why we're not. We need to figure it out and until you have those answers, you can't make it all the same. Maybe it's because Indy is its own little person and you get what you get." (On how her team handled having some cars in the field and some out): "I don't know if anyone's got it figured out. I think it was great for John (Andretti) to get it in. It was a big relief for the team that someone got in, but the reasons why β¦ I don't know if we can put our finger on it. I wouldn't say that anyone feels like they have it figured out. I don't think so. All of us, at times, have felt like we have it figured out and, at times, we feel completely lost. To be honest, you might be able to go up and down pit lane and find a lot of people like that. You have a good day or you have a bad day and, you know what, I had good days all the way up until Saturday, and then I had bad days. I don't think we have a clear answer, but it definitely pushes us to get one. (On how qualifications have played out for all entries): "I don't think we know. I'm sure Roger (Penske) is not sure. When teams make cars, they make one as best they can. I'm sure Roger is scratching his head. Look at Paul Tracy, his teammate Justin Wilson got in but he didn't, so every team has that kind of situation. Unless everyone goes out and is the exact same speed, you're always asking questions. It just seems harder than any other place to put your finger on it here. Some cars go really well by themselves, and some cars just need to see a car and they instantly go faster. It just depends on so many things. That's what makes this place so great and so frustrating all at the same time. It's hard to put your finger on it." (On what she has learned this week): "You learn to never take it for granted. That's definitely one thing. I don't know. Maybe you need to go work on the car constantly to narrow down what you need in the car. Every time I come here, it's a different situation, a different story, a different field out there. But every time I get to participate in the race, I learn more for the next race, and that's all I can do as a driver is take in as many situations on the track as possible and go on to the next one. And that's all I can do, as far as getting the car right and knowing what I need. You would think after seven years I'd be better off, but I'm worse than ever. I mean, not ignoring the fact that the competition has only gotten more difficult. A lot of people have said in their opinions this is the hardest they have ever seen the field. It's as competitive as they've ever seen it. I would have to agree." (About race setup): "I'll be putting some downforce back on. Although my car seems to be going the same speed at all my downforce levels. That was the problem. We didn't get to do a lot of race work, so you might see me playing around on Carb Day. You got to do it. You got to get a run. You got to get it right. And that's one thing I learned when I came here. If you don't get in on the first day, the first weekend, whatever it is, you're just putting yourself back even further because if you have to keep working on qualifying and the race car. Not only are you starting from the back, but you can't work on your race setup and the problems come then. Hopefully with our experience and everything will pay off, and we'll be able to have a good race car, but I'm not sure right now." (About qualifying run): "I had no idea (what my car was going to do). I can tell a little bit when the lights come up when I accelerate and how many lights I can see on the steering wheel and going down the back straight and coming around and then around three and four and got to the front straight, and it felt good. Got around the short chute, had the lights on, out of (Turn) 2 it felt good. Getting lights down the back straight, and I thought, 'OK, it seems like it's OK right now.' Then you come back to start-finish line and it showed 225, and I was happy. Maybe I should've backed off a little. I think that can happen: You can push it too hard on the outset to see what you've got and you penalize yourself in the end, and that wasn't the situation I wanted to put myself in. It was better that it was yesterday, for sure. Unfortunately, we didn't have consistency, but I don't think anyone is thinking about that right now anyway. We'll probably wait until tomorrow. (About Bump Day emotions): "This place can whip you into shape - or out of shape. But I was talking to (Ryan) Hunter-Reay the other day, and he said: 'Bump Day is just where I am. I'm experienced with Bump Day." And that's when I told him: 'You know what? It is the good memories that make me love this place so much, and it's unfortunate for anyone who hasn't had those really good days or really good moments here.' The relief that comes with it, because the highs are what we go for here. So the lows are really low, which means that the highs are really high here. And until you've experienced them, you've never really experienced Indy for all it can be for you. And I've been there. I feel lucky for that. Hopefully, I can continue to finish well, and I think our goal will have to be just stay on the lead lap until the first yellow comes out and go from there." (Before today, have you ever felt like this?): "Sure. I'm a race car driver. It's not always good out there. I remember the first year, probably 2006, we were having a horrible month. It was a struggle. I was doing 211. You know that 211 is pretty slow, and we worked, worked, worked. We had all bad days. Friday got better. And Saturday was fine. I went out there, and I put it in 10th place. I was way happier to be in 10th place in 2006 then fourth in 2005. That is for sure. So I've had those days where you just feel like, 'I'll just take whatever you got.' You just kind of want to be done with your day. Unfortunately, last year I was sitting in a pretty tough situation, too. I don't envy Marco's (Andretti) situation right now. I don't. That's a tough spot to be in. He's going to be strapped in that car until the end of the day, stressing until 6 o'clock. He's got 43 more minutes of this, and I feel really bad for him because that is a bad spot to be in. Last year when I qualified on the first day, our times were slow enough that I was within two people of being bumped if the speeds were over ours, which they were. I was really like 30 seconds coming into the final minute strapped into my car. Oh, geez. It seemed like the weekend would never end. Unfortunately, this one felt kind of similar. I suppose I'm done two hours earlier than I was last year. You just keep the faith the whole time and let it play out." (If you would not have qualified due to the rain and had the opportunity to jump in a teammate's car, would you have taken that to get in?): "I don't know if that would happen. I remember when Alex (Tagliani) took Bruno's (Junqueira) spot two years ago. I did think about that today, but it's not like that. They all have sponsors. They all have people relying on this race. If I don't get to go out today, I will not be in the Indy 500. That's just the way it was going to go. What do you do? I think we've all been rather speechless today. You know, you're rolling around on your rolly chairs in the office room, and you just roll over and you're like, 'What do ya' think?' And nobody has words. Nobody. I didn't have words. I didn't know what to say. I was speechless. I can't believe this was happening. But it is exciting, I guess."
PAUL TRACY (No. 23 WIX Filters/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "I'm real happy for the WIX team. They did a great job. We knew we could run those kinds of speeds if we got the opportunity to do it. Indianapolis has dealt me a tough deck over my career. You know, we didn't get it on the first day. We missed the set up a little bit and didn't get a chance to run again. We didn't want to pull ourselves out of the lineup, but to go out and have it start raining and continue to keep it going is great. The last lap was pretty sketchy. The waiting is stressful. Over last night and this morning, I got a fever blister on my lip. That's how stressful it is. I don't get them unless I'm really stressed out. That's what Indianapolis will do to you. It'll drive you crazy. It'll give you the best highs and the biggest lows. I mean, with '02, last year, and qualifying a lap and a half in the rain, I definitely have a flair for bringing the dramatics. (While we were waiting in line) I said to my engineer, 'I think it's going to frickin' rain.' And I didn't say frickin'. It definitely relieves the pressure off the team. We've got all four cars in now so we don't know what's going to happen with the weather. I feel for Danica. She's on the outside looking in, and I know that feeling. Hopefully she'll get a chance to go at it because we want all the best drivers."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): "We got lucky. We got a pretty good draw to go early. Obviously, Danica failed tech, so we got further up the draw. We were very fortunate to get a run in. Now, at the same time, the conditions at which we ran were pretty slow. It was literally as it was starting to rain. The air gets really dense, and therefore it gets pretty slow. Also, when I was looking at data, I was lifting a little bit in (Turn) 1, and I can tell you that the only reason that is because I couldn't see a thing. It was dark, and I had a dark visor on. It all looked like it was a whole bunch of black to me. The Service Central guys did a good job last night. On our second run yesterday - a lot of people thought we aborted it - but we didn't. We had a fuel pickup issue. The car shut itself off. Still, I don't think we're exactly sure what it is. We went through the fuel cell and changed the fuel pump, the collector, all the fuel lines, you know, everything inside. But it was one of those mysterious things. We didn't even touch the fuel cell when we changed engines yesterday, but the next thing we know it didn't want to run. They did a great job getting this car back on track, getting us out there this morning. This morning we ran low 225.3 by ourselves, so I thought that's where I would expect to be in qualifying pace. But it just didn't quite work out."
PIPPA MANN (No. 36 Conquest Racing): "It's a huge relief, and I'm very happy. It's been an up-and-down week, and yesterday was the toughest day that we had all week long. What a day to have it. The boys stayed here so late last night, and we thought it all the way around. I think I'm the only one-off rookie to put it in the show, so that's not a bad achievement."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): (After being bumped from the field): "I can't even process this right now. It's just devastating. We struggled all month, or all week, to find speed, and it just wasn't there. It wasn't enough in the end. Sun Drop and DHL have given us a lot of great support, and we've been strong all year. This is terrible. It was my teammate that bumped me out of the field. I've been on that side of it before. In 2009, I was the last car out on track, and I bumped my way into the field. I know what that's like. This is a hard one to take. I don't know how it's going to be on Race Day. We just missed it. We couldn't find the speed. I don't know what to tell you. This is the worst. I don't think it's really hit just yet. I can't process it."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc.): "Oh, man. I would just say that qualifying in Indianapolis is the most stressful day. Bump Day is definitely the most stressful day. I don't ever want to experience this again. I'm very frustrated. Obviously, the whole team is bummed out. All we can do now is keep our heads up and regroup ourselves and go to the next one. Unfortunately, racing is like that sometimes."
JAMES JAKES (No. 18 Acorn Stairlifts): "Every lap we ran out there, we've been flat out. The car was trimmed down and didn't seem to go anywhere. The conditions (weather) varied, but that happens at every racetrack. My thanks to the guys on the Dale Coyne crew, and Alex (Lloyd, teammate) did a great job at the end. The event is awesome, and this is a great show. Hopefully I can be a part of it next year."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Hire Heroes USA/7-Eleven/Dr Pepper): "It's a tough break - both me and Ryan, not in the show. I'm pretty gutted. Danica spent some time with me, putting me back together, after I got back to the garage. I'm obviously happy for Danica, Marco and John to be in, but gutted for me and Ryan. I never wanted to experience this feeling. You see it happen every year, and you hope it's not you. It's not nice."
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