Andretti, Hunter-Reay OK on Bump Day
Both wound up in the 33-car field for next Sunday's race, thanks to their gutsy qualifying runs with time running out on another emotional "Bump Day" on the famed 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.
"I'm glad the race isn't tomorrow," said Andretti, who didn't wrap up his 10th Indy start until his third and final qualifying attempt of the day. "I couldn't do it. I don't think I could get in the car. I'm physically, mentally, just totally exhausted.
"I just can't even believe it. I know that I'll wake up in the middle of the night and realize I'm back in the Indy 500."
Andretti and Hunter-Reay, whose successful qualifying effort was underway as the gun went off ending the six-hour final session of time trials, both had to find more speed after being bumped out of the lineup earlier in the day.
Hunter-Reay said he just considered himself lucky to make the race after bumping Indy rookie Alex Tagliani out with the Canadian driver sitting in his car, waiting and hoping to get one more chance.
"That was a timing issue there," Hunter-Reay said. "I think Tagliani was pretty fast and we were lucky we went out last. I've never been so happy to take last place."
Tagliani will race anyway. Conquest Racing announced that he will will replace Bruno Junqueira in the No. 36 car.
"We've been working with Alex for a long time now and have built our commercial and marketing program around him," stated Conquest owner Eric Bachelart. "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."
The field was filled on Saturday, but poor weather conditions, including gusty wind, kept the speeds of the slowest qualifiers low enough to make them vulnerable to bumping by faster drivers on Sunday.
And speeds did climb considerably on the final day of qualifying, thanks to a cool, sunny afternoon with little wind.
The day began with 1996 race winner Buddy Lazier, 2002 pole-winner Junqueira and Indy rookie Stanton Barrett the only drivers with a chance to bump their way into the field. In the end, only Junqueira made it, turning a solid four-lap average of 221.115 mph despite not running a lap in his car until Sunday morning.
That bumped Andretti's Saturday speed of 219.442 out of the field.
The day began with five drivers qualified under 220 and most of the qualifying efforts Sunday came from those drivers, trying to go faster and get themselves out of danger of being bumped.
Andretti, whose car was entered here by NASCAR icon Richard Petty and fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold, tried to bump his way back in with about two hours to go, but waved off the effort after one lap at 218.
He went back out with 20 minutes left in the session and managed four laps at 220.282, but it wasn't enough.
Lazier and Barrett, who had been working hard throughout the afternoon to find more speed in practice, then made their final qualifying tries and both came off the track after one slow lap under the green flag, knowing they weren't going to get it done.
By that time, Andretti's team had made some quick adjustments on his Petty blue and red No. 43 and he was ready to make one last try.
This time, he put up four straight laps over 221 mph for an average of 221.316 that placed him 28th in the field and bumped out the 220.413 that Hunter-Reay had posted earlier in the day.
"Today was a good day overall," Andretti said. "The big picture was good. I didn't get nervous about it. I didn't lose my cool. I just had enough faith in the people around me.
"But that's not the way it's supposed to be for an old guy like me. I can't imagine how embarrassed I would have been if Richard Petty had called and said, 'Where are you starting?' and I had to say, 'I'm not.' "
As Andretti drove slowly back to the pits, Hunter-Reay was ready to try again. He drove onto the track with just two minutes until the gun and knowing he had to beat Tagliani's 220.553 from Saturday or go home.
"It wasn't much fun," Hunter-Reay said after barely making it with four laps over 220 and a 220.597 average -- just 0.044 seconds quicker than Tagliani over 10 miles. "That was the hairiest day I've ever had in racing."
The field, from pole-winner Helio Castroneves to Hunter-Reay, was separated in time by a record 3.0967 seconds. The previous record was 3.2422 seconds in 2001.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
93RD INDIANAPOLIS 500
It's May, but one more special than usual. The Centennial Era has begun at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the first major event of a three-year-long celebration is the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Recap
Coverage• Surround: 93rd Indianapolis 500
• Blount: Can five be far off for Helio?
• Blount: Helio a winner again
• Oreovicz: More Indy heartache
• Blount: Calmer, cooler Danica prevails
• Oreovicz: No shame for Wheldon
• Race day blog
• Meira breaks 2 vertebra in late crash
• Blount: Something special brewing
• Blount: Passion still fuels Penske
• Oreovicz: What are the odds?
• Kozak: A one-track drama
• Hinton: Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!
• Schwarb: Helio smiling again
• Oreovicz: Danica 5.0, new and improved
• Oreovicz: Bump Day thrill ride
• Schwarb: John Andretti in, but spent
• Oreovicz blog: Long third day with late payoff
• Blount: Dario back where he belongs
• Schwarb: Wheldon slow out of the gate
• Oreovicz: Sharp races in under the gun
• Oreovicz: Helio out front on ho-hum day
• Schwarb: A very good year for Helio
• Oreovicz: Let's get rolling
• Hinton: Bringing it "home" in Indiana
• Petty returns to Indy as owner
• Surround Flashback: Dixon wins in 2008
Practice And Qualifying• Andretti, Hunter-Reay OK on Bump Day
• Doornbos tops third-round qualifying
• Matos makes field as other rookies crash
• Castroneves blitzes to pole
• Doornbos again finds wall in practice
• Doornbos wrecks in practice
• Hunter-Reay crashes; Andretti fastest
• Three get on track before rain hits
• Doornbos leads Indy 500 rookies in test
• Rarely used vets to join rookies at Indy
Indy 500 Video• Banner day for Castroneves
• King For A Day: Petty arrives at Indy
• Indy At 100: Roger Penske
• Castroneves happy to be back
• The Allure Of Indy
• Indy at 100: Helio's first win
• Indy at 100: Danica Patrick
• Ready For Indy? The King prepares
• Indy at 100: Foyt's fourth
• Indy at 100: Juan Pablo Montoya
• Leave It To Cheever: ... and another thing
• Leave It To Cheever: Loose bricks
• Indy At 100: Rick Mears
• Castroneves wins pole for Indy 500
• See more Indy 500 video