Bump Day Sunday At Indy

Speedway. IN – Rain is often understood to be a participant in Indianapolis 500 qualifying each year. It played two minor roles in Sunday’s Bump Day; roles that almost cost some fast drivers a chance to make the field. Almost.

With twenty-four drivers already in the field from Saturday’s Pole Day, Canadian Paul Tracy became the fastest second-day qualifier at 224.939mph, finishing his run just before the second of two rainstorms hit the track.

Tracy, driving for Dreyer&Reinbold Racing, was almost a mile-per-hour slower than he practiced in the morning, but his speed was fast enough to bump Mike Conway out of the field.

“We knew we could run those kind of speeds if we got the opportunity to do it,” said the Canadian who almost won the 500 in 2002. “Indianapolis has dealt me a tough deck over my career. We missed the setup a little bit on the first day and didn’t get a chance to try again. But to go out (on today’s run) and have it start raining and still complete the run is great. I mean with ’02, last year (when he missed the race), and now qualifying a lap and a half in the rain, I definitely have a flair for the dramatic. We’ve got all four (Dryer & Reinbold) cars in the race,” he noted, but said that he hoped Danica would get a chance before it rained, because, “We want all the best drivers.”

Danica Patrick did put her Andretti Autosport car next to Tracy in row nine with a 224.861mph run. Patrick made her attempt after Tracy, but she had to wait for the track to be dried after the rain, and there was some concern that if it rained once more, she might not get back out before the 6:00pm gun.

“If I didn’t get out today, I just won’t be in the field,” Danica thought to herself as she waited in line, strapped in her green GoDaddy car. “Things weren’t going the way they should. We lost our spot in line before the rain when we failed tech and I thought maybe it’s not supposed to happen this year.

” I’m relieved to be in the race, but my emotions are between angry and happy, “said the six-time 500 starter, “but we need to find out why we’re fast and then not.”

Graham Rahal joined the Tracy/Patrick duo in row nine with a run of 224.380mph when a stroke of good fortune helped him avoid any possible rain problems.

“We got lucky. We got a good draw for the qualifying line and then, when Danica failed tech, we moved up,” said the son of Indy winner Bobby. “On my run I couldn’t see much in turn one because of the dark sky and my visor. This is the most demanding track in the world, yet it’s designed to be the simplest.”

The fates of the race track toyed with Marco Andretti at day’s end, bumping him out of the field with five minutes left in the session, and then allowing him to work his way back in with no time remaining.

Alex Lloyd of Dale Coyne Racing bumped the third-generation Andretti out with a speed of 223.957mph on his third and final attempt with five minutes remaining. Andretti was second in line to return to the track behind rookie James Jakes, but when Jakes pulled into the pits after two slow laps, Marco had one more chance.

So with his father/team owner, Michael, on the pit cart watching intently, Marco posted a brave 224.628mph run that not only put him securely in 28th spot, but, unfortunately bumped teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay out of the 500 field.

“The way we went out (on the qualification run) it was either stick it in the fence, or stick it in the show,” explained Marco. “Luckily we were on the upside of that. We were at the mercy of Mother Nature for awhile there. It was really a roller coaster day.

It wasn’t until Jakes pulled off the track, though, that the Andretti duo had the chance to get back in the race. “It was almost like a common courtesy that he pulled off. If I went out and did that (slow) speed, I would call it just to let somebody else have another go.”

And another go it was as Andretti took advantage of this final minute reprieve to put his Team Venom/Andretti Autosport ride into the show. “I knew if we could keep it off the wall we’d have a shot at it.”

And in the end Michael Andretti summed-up the whole month of May so far.

“The quality that was out there this year was unmatched in the history of the Speedway in my mind. From the drivers to the teams I think this was the toughest it’s ever been.”

Bump Day Notes:
• Rumors continue to make their way around the Speedway concerning the possible sale of the track. Several potential buyers have been noted whose names are well-known in the racing community. The stories say that an early summer sale is possible. No announcement is expected, if at all, until after the Centennial race is history.

• The Indianapolis 500 starting field will embark on a nation-wide media tour Monday to promote the Centennial race. They will visit fifteen cities from Boston and Chicago to Orlando and Las Vegas. Milwaukee and Toronto are also among the markets to be visited. Milwaukee drivers will include Buddy Rice, Bruno Junqueira, Charlie Kimball and Vitor Meira.

• Patrick Carpentier crashed hard into the first turn wall during morning practice Sunday, destroying the second Dragon Racing car this weekend. “I started to go sideways a little bit and I hit the white line. You don’t want to do that with these cars. It just swapped around on me.” Carpentier had flown into Indy at 12:30am to replace Scott Speed who couldn’t find enough speed in the car. He is cleared by the medical staff to drive. Team driver Ho-Pin Tung hit the barrier in the same turn Saturday with similar results to the other Dragon car.

• Indianapolis 500 veteran Willy T. Ribbs served as the honorary starter Sunday. This is the 20th anniversary of Ribbs becoming the first African-American to qualify for the 500. Ribbs is at the Speedway this month fielding an Indy Lights car in the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 27th for 21-year-old African-American driver Chase Austin.

• Danica Patrick’s car was taken out of the qualifying line for a minor infraction that allowed Graham Rahal to move up and get his successful run in before the first rain storm hit. She then was slightly quicker than Rahal when she qualified after the second storm.

• When Danica Patrick snuck into the race it tied a record with four women drivers in the field. Ana Beatriz, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann and Danica made it this year. In 2010 Sarah Fisher was in the field and Mann wasn’t entered.

• James Jakes was applauded when he chose to pull into the pits rather than complete his run with just minutes remaining in the session, and Marco Andretti waiting in line to go out. Had Jakes stayed on the track for his full four laps, Andretti would not have been able to pull onto the track before the six o’clock gun went off.

• Four drivers were bumped from the starting line-up: Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Raphael Matos and Sebastian Saavedra.

• This is the closest field from fastest to slowest in Speedway history. The gap is 2.5399sec. Between pole-sitter Alex Tagliani, and Ana Beatriz in the 33rd spot.

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