Wrapping Up A Drama-Filled Weekend
In a way, I almost enjoy coming to qualifying weekend more than the race…almost. There are so many storylines and subplots that develop throughout the weekend that come to a head in the last thirty minutes on Sunday afternoon. This year was no different.
The weather was certainly a factor, as it usually is. As it turned out, it just served to make things more interesting as it created a sense of urgency for several drivers – most notably, Danica Patrick. Say what you will about Ms. Patrick (I know I have), but she showed guts today. When, at one point, it looked like the rain may prevent her from even attempting a run to get into the field today, she was the first out when the track finally dried out. She responded by turning the fastest lap of the entire day and putting her car safely in the field.
Paul Tracy turned in the fastest four-lap average of the day and put his WIX Filters Dallara on the inside of Row Nine. Ryan Briscoe also answered the bell by putting his car on the outside of the ninth row. Charlie Kimball also solidly joined his teammate, Graham Rahal, who qualified just before the big storm came earlier in the day.
But the main story was brewing near the back of the field. I had an idea that there would be an Andretti Autosport driver to not make this field. What I did not expect was that two wouldn’t make it. I suspected that Mike Conway wouldn’t make the race, since he had been slow all month. What surprised me was that Ryan Hunter-Reay didn’t make it either. Marco Andretti was bumped by Alex Lloyd, but bumped his teammate, Hunter-Reay, to get back in.
How does this happen? How does a team like Andretti Autosport allow themselves to have all four of their full-time drivers be shut out on the first day and then most of them hanging around the last row on the second day. This wasn’t as shocking as Marlboro Team Penske’s No-Show in 1995, but it was close.
The others that ended the day on the outside looking in were Sebastian Saavedra, James Jakes, Ho-Pin Tung, Scott Speed and Rafa Matos. Most experts agreed that one full-time driver would be going home. I don’t think anyone saw three not making the field. This is certainly an intriguing grid. I think that there is now a good chance that the winning car may actually come from a non-Penske/Ganassi stable. I’m a Penske fan, but that could be good for driving fan interest in the sport. So let all the weeklong speculation begin. It’s going to be a fun week.
* – Note: As soon as this post loads up, we are piling in the car and headed back to Nashville. I must be at work by 8:00 Monday morning. There will be no post here on Monday, but I’ll try to have something up here most days this week leading up to the race. Thanks for following us all weekend. – GP.