Bump Day At Indy Had That “Old Time” Feeling

HAMMOND, IN: The fourth and final day of qualifications at Indy used to be something special. This year, the weather was perfect; the action was virtually non-stop, and that old-time Bump Day feeling returned big-time!

Americans John Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay drove their way into the 2009 Indianapolis 500 with last-gasp attempts in the final moments. It was drama at it’s highest, as some found success, while others were left nothing but burst bubbles.

Taking advantage of improved conditions over Third-Day Qualifying on May 16, several drivers withdrew their times to avoid the bubble. Tomas Scheckter, Mike Conway, E.J. Viso, Nelson Philippe and Milka Duno all pulled this gamble off successfully and managed to move to safer times, while Bruno Junqueira had little trouble making the cut on his first run of the month.

Andretti, who began the day in the field, got bumped midway through the day by Junqueira, who was making his first qualifying attempt with Conquest Racing, then struggled to find speed on two qualifying attempts.

With just 15 minutes of the session remaining, Andretti, Barrett and Lazier were all outside the field, and Hunter-Reay had been pushed back onto the bubble again.

Andretti was first to try to snatch Hunter-Reay’s grid spot, but his four-lap average was too slow to bump the Vision Racing car from the field. Barrett and Lazier then made last-ditch efforts to qualify, before both waved off their runs after poor first laps.

Their quick decisions to abandon their attempts allowed Andretti to go back out again with eight minutes to go – and on his final attempt, he earned a spot in his 10th Indianapolis 500, posting a four-lap average speed of 221.316 to bump Hunter-Reay. Andretti has qualified every time he has participated in month of May activities.

Hunter-Reay was able to rebound, too, posting a speed of 220.597 to edge Alex Tagliani by a few hundredths of a second. That put Tagliani alongside Stanton Barrett and former “500” winner Buddy Lazier as non-qualifiers for this year’s race.


#19 Scheckter
Made successful qualifying attempt at 5:36 p.m.

#43 J. Andretti
Made unsuccessful qualifying attempt at 5:40 p.m.

#34T Tagliani
Pulled out of line at 5:41 p.m., pulled back in line behind #21T Hunter-Reay.

#21T Hunter-Reay
Pulled out of line at 5:45 p.m.

#91 Lazier
Waved off after Lap 1 of qualifying attempt.

#34T Tagliani
Pulled out of line at 5:46 p.m.

#98 Barrett
Waved off after Lap 1 of qualifying attempt.

#00 Philippe
Pulled out of line at 5:49 p.m., pulled back in line behind Hunter-Reay, Tagliani, Servia and Andretti.

#21T Hunter-Reay
Pulled out of line at 5:51 p.m.

#34T Tagliani
Pulled out of line at 5:51 p.m.

#17 Servia
Pulled out of line at 5:51 p.m.

#43 Andretti
Made successful qualifying attempt at 5:52 p.m. after pulling in line at 5:50 p.m. behind Hunter-Reay, Tagliani and Servia.

#00 Philippe
Pulled out of line at 5:57 p.m.

#21T Hunter-Reay
Made successful qualifying attempt at 5:57 p.m.

#34T Tagliani
Only car in line when gun fired at 6 p.m.

#91 Lazier, #17 Servia were in line behind #34T Tagliani after Hunter-Reay started attempt. #17 Servia pulled out of line at 5:58 p.m. #91 Lazier pulled out of line at 5:59 p.m.

For the day, nine drivers combined to make 12 qualifying attempts, resulting in seven bumps.

The 33-driver field is the closest-matched by time in the history of the Indianapolis 500. Just 3.0967 seconds separate the cumulative four-lap qualifying times of polesitter Helio Castroneves and Hunter-Reay.

Veteran Tomas Scheckter posted the day’s top speed after being bumped earlier.

“I’ve been at this track the last seven years. I haven’t eaten anything today. We did a race run, I just came mentally prepared today, but we thought we’d be safe and how things change. Next thing you know you have to get the qualifying setup back on. The guys are running back to the garage. I try to just be in my motorhome, lights off, and just focus. They gave me a good car, and we were able to do it safely, so I’m just happy for everybody. We had a great race run, which I am so happy about, too, which is the most important thing, but, to go in there and go really quick, I’m happy. The car felt all right. The last lap wasn’t perfect. Just a big thank you to everybody at Mona Vie, Dale Coyne Racing, Bob Pappas’ crew. We’re in the middle here doing a race run when we had to get the car back at 4:30, and just take all the downforce out of it and bring it back. We did two runs and then stuck it in line, and we went a mile and a half quicker than we
qualified before, so we got to be happy with that”.

In a maneuver reminiscent of 1970, when Owner/Driver Dick Simon failed to qualify for the Race, and pulled his teammate, John Mahler, from his other car so he could race, Conquest Racing announced late Sunday night that they will be replacing Bruno Junqueira aboard the #36 Conquest entry with the team’s primary driver Alex Tagliani for this year’s Indianapolis 500. The following are statements from the drivers and team principle.

Eric Bachelart, Conquest Racing Team Owner
“We had the chance to qualify two excellent drivers today. Unfortunately we didn’t have the same fate for both entries despite excellent work from everyone on the team. Bruno has once again shown the world how talented a driver he is and we truly appreciate the work he has done for us in this short amount of time and thank him for his excellent work. Alex didn’t make the show and it wasn’t for a lack of speed or a fault of his own. He simply fell victim to exceptional circumstances. That’s how the magic of Indy works sometimes; it can be good or bad. We’ve been working with Alex for a long time now and have built our commercial and marketing program around him. He has been our primary driver since the start of the season and we felt that it was in the best interest of the team and our partners to have him in the car for the Indy 500 as we continue to build our future together.”

Bruno Junqueira
“I want to thank the team and ALL SPORT/BIG RED for giving me the opportunity to qualify their car today. I was able to go fast right from the start despite not having a lot of practice and that was very rewarding for myself. I really enjoyed working with Conquest Racing, they gave me a really good car and hopefully I can work with them again the future. It’s a shame that Alex got bumped out of the field at the end. I knew coming into this that Alex is Conquest’s primary driver and that if something happened to the first car that I would likely give him my place and I completely understand it.”

Alex Tagliani, driver
“I want to first of all say thank you to Bruno for being so understanding and to the team for taking this decision. We have been building this long-term relationship for a while now and I’m more than thrilled to be able to pursue that by taking part in my first Indy 500. Obviously it would have been much sweeter if we would have had both cars in the show because Bruno and I had fast and identical cars. It’s pretty much a fluke that I didn’t make the field. We just got caught out. You never want to second-guess yourself but if we had to redo things we probably would do it differently, but now that is in the past. At the end of the day, I’m just really happy right now to be realizing my dream of running in the Indy 500. The team has worked so hard all month and they deserve to be here.”

Qualifying Sunday for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine and speed:
1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 224.864
2. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 224.083
3. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 224.010
4. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 223.954
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 223.867
6. (11T) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 223.612
7. (5) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 223.331
8. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 223.114
9. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 223.028
10. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 222.882
11. (99) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 222.622
12. (2) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 223.429
13. (15) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, 223.111
14. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 223.054
15. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 222.903
16. (27) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 222.805
17. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 222.780
18. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 222.777
19. (41) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 222.586
20. (16) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 222.162
21. (67) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 222.082
22. (44) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 221.956
23. (06T) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 221.692
24. (8) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 221.195
25. (17) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 220.984
26. (19) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 221.496
27. (24) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 221.417
28. (43) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 221.316
29. (13) E.J. Viso, Dallara-Honda, 221.164
30. (36) Bruno Junqueira, Dallara-Honda, 221.115
31. (23) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 221.106
32. (00) Nelson Philippe, Dallara-Honda, 220.754
33. (21T) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 220.597

With the late announcement that Alex Tagliani would be replacing Bruno Junqueira, the #36 will move back to 33rd position.

With that, the field is set for the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 next Sunday.

And now?stay tuned for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

The Indy Racing League helped in the preparation of this article.

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