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Indy Bump Day Results 2011
BPS File Photo from 2010...Steve Burzynski
BPS File Photo from 2010...Steve Burzynski

By: Mark W. Theisen

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA May 22, 2011: ‘It’s the easiest race track we drive on,” said Graham Rahal, “yet this place is just so damned tough” and that explains the grind that one has to go through to qualify and race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and today was no different as the element of rain played significantly into the equation that filled the field for the 95th running of the Indianapolis 500 next Sunday May 29th in the 100th Anniversary year of the first 500 in 1911.
9 spots remained open in this the second and last day of qualifying for the 500 and the day dawned sunny and humid as the 16 unqualified cars took to the track at 9:00 A.M. for the one hour of practice allowed before qualifying began.
Patrick Carpentier was announced as the new driver for the #20 Dragon Racing entry this earlier this morning as he was taking the place of Scott Speed in the car.
Carpentier, not new to the Speedway was sorting out the car and getting better speed with each passing lap but lost control in the first turn with just under 9 minutes left in the practice session spun and struck the SAFER Barrier backwards inflicting heavy damage to the car.
Dragon Racing, owned by Jay Penske, son of Roger, now has lost both his cars in two days with Ho-Pin Tung crashing yesterday and is on the outside looking in for this year’s race.
Charlie Kimball at 226.822 was quickest in the practice session followed by Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, Rahal and Paul Tracy.
Andretti Autosports, the team owned by former driver Michael Andretti, was facing a tough day at the Speedway today with four of his five teams cars still unqualified but was buoyed, temporarily, back the speeds they posted in practice. In addition to Patrick, Marco Andretti, Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay were his drivers needing to find the speed to make the race.
Following the practice session the skies began to darken as the noon starting time for qualifications approached. Ana Beatriz pulled off the pit apron at 12:01 and posted a four lap average of 223.789 to place her in the provisional grid.
The problems compounded for Andretti’s team when Patrick’s failed inspection and was not allowed out for her attempt as Rahal took to the track in her spot.
On the final lap of Rahal’s attempt rain began to fall but he was able to post a four-lap average of 224.380 to claim a provisional spot on the grid as well as the skies darkened heavily and open up with a huge downpour that shut down qualifying with 11 cars in the qualifying line.
The storm passed in 30 minutes and track crews went to work immediately and by 2:25 P.M. the track was ready for qualifying again but the threat of rain was still a distinct possibility and that hastened the activity up and down pit road.
Raphael Matos was first out following the storm and posted 223.272 followed by the third Penske driver, Ryan Briscoe, who made up for his woes yesterday with an average of 224.639 to put his entry in the race along with Will Power and Helio Castroneves.
Alex Lloyd, 223.472; Pippa Mann, 223.936; Kimball, 224.499, Hunter-Reay, 223.690; and Conway, 223.449 filled the field of 33 cars for the 500.
James Jakes, 221.804; and Sebastian Saavedra, 222.284 were the cars out next but their speeds were not fast enough to make it into the race.
Marco Andretti was out next and his 223.688 bumped Matos from the field as once again the skies began to darken as Paul Tracy took to the track and recorded the fastest average of the day of 224.939 as rain began to fall again and cast an ominous shadow on the rest of day. Tracy’s speed bumped Conway from the field.
Patrick, Matos and others were in the line when the skies opened and their quest for making the 500 was in jeopardy but the rain clouds moved out of the area and once again track crews began to work on the track, this while everyone else was watching the weather radar as storms moved around the Speedway but not over it.
With the clock ticking and nerves tightening in the Patrick camp as well as the other unqualified teams the track dried and at 4:45 the track was ready to be raced upon and Patrick was first out.
Adjustments to the wing and trim of her car paid off this time as she averaged 224.891 with a quick lap of 225.411 to put her in the field after being on the brink of elimination.
“You just don’t know,” said Patrick when asked about the roller-coaster of trying to qualify for this year’s race. “We were fast, real fast and then not. Early on I thought we’d make the top 9, than 15 but in the end we struggled and I don’t know why.”
“This place is tough and it reads you as a person. It knows when you’re not confident, struggling and nervous and it treats you that way,” Patrick continued. “We just need to learn why we are fast and then not; we don’t have an explanation as to why we lost all that speed.”
“I’ve been frustrated by all this and have not eaten and now I’m excited and relieved and perhaps I’ll sleep tonight but we still need answers so as to be competitive next Sunday.”
When asked if her opinion of the Speedway had changed Patrick said it never would change. “I love this place, always have always will and have learned to accept what is dealt to you and to try and handle it as best you can. The format is difficult but that is what makes Indy so unique, you just have to face it and do the best you can.”
Matos was back on the track after Patrick but could not muster the speed to get back in the race as was Conway, Saavedra and Lloyd as the track was opened to practice at 5:12 P.M. for the remaining unqualified cars to try and find the speed.
Practice concluded at 5:25 when teams indicated they were ready to make their final attempts at making the race.
Conway was next out to make his final attempt of the day and it was not to be for him this year following his horrific crash here last May. He could not get his Andretti Autosports car up to speed so he pulled off the track after one lap so as not to take time away from others as there was less than a half-hour left for those to make the race.
But with no qualifiers ready the track was then re-opened up for practice again with both qualified cars working on race set-up and those unqualified cars looking for speed.
With twenty-minutes left Jakes went out but brushed the wall in the first turn and aborted the run before the four laps were completed.
Next out was Saavedra, in his third and final attempt, trying to come back after striking the wall on his previous attempt but he could not muster the needed speed so he pulled off opening the track for the final attempt of Matos.
While all this was going on Marco Andretti was sitting on the “bump” with his 223.688 average going through all the ups and downs of each car making its run.
Matos’ final attempt ended in disappointment as well after being unable to crack a speed higher than Marco Andretti.
With 7 minutes left it was Lloyd out for his final and this time he found the speed to make the 500. A quick lap of 224.114 and a four lap average of 223.957 bumped Marco Andretti fro the race with four minutes left and the car of Jakes ahead of his in the qualifying line.
Jakes pulled out and recorded two laps in the 221 M.P.H. bracket before pulling off the track with just over a minute left in the session allowing Marco Andretti back on the track for his last run to get back in the race and obviously the last run of the day.
This time Marco Andretti, as did his teammate Patrick, found the missing speed and was able to post his fastest speeds of the month when it counted most. A quick lap of 224.728 and an average of 224.628 put him back in the field at the expense of his teammate Hunter-Reay who now joins another member of Andretti Autosports, Conway, outside of the 100th Anniversary field.
“I wonder if the track got better or not,” said Marco Andretti. “We didn’t change the car, we just went out with the determination to stick it into the race or stick into the wall and we were able to pull it off at the end. When I woke up this morning I expected it to come down to this, I just knew it and it turned out that way.”
“When we arrived here and did not find the speed to go fast, I felt it would come down to this and I planned it that way and tried to develop the mind-set that would work and that is why I feel I was ready for the pressure we put ourselves in. We were in the proper mindset.”
Team owner and Marco’s father, Michael, echoed the words of his son. “I know we were going to be in the position we were. I feel sorry for Mike (Conway) and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and their teams and sponsors,” said Michael Andretti. “This has been the toughest it has been on me since I became a car owner and I do hope it is a learning experience that we an build on. We were slow from the start but now we have good cars for the race so I hope it all works out. This has been as toughest it has ever been for us.”
Tracy, Patrick, Briscoe, M. Andretti, Kimball, Rahal, Lloyd, Mann and Beatriz were the winners on this action packed and drama filled day while Hunter-Reay, Conway, Matos, Jakes, Ho-Pin Tung, Carpentier, Speed and Saavedra will have to wait for another year.
For the second straight year it came down to the final minute of qualifying on bump day to determine to the final lineup for the race but this year the pressure cooker included names like Patrick and Andretti who were in very unfamiliar environments’ yet rose to the task to make the race, it was truly and exciting day and the field is now set for the 100th Anniversary 500 next Sunday.