Wrapping Up A Drama-Filled Weekend

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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.

George Phillips

* – 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.

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15 Responses to “Wrapping Up A Drama-Filled Weekend”

  1. This day had everything. It had two cars qualifying early in the day in conditions (at least in the south end) that probably required headlights. It had severe thunderstorms. It had track drying. It had qualifying to fill the field. It had more rain. It had more track drying with The Princess on the outside looking in. It had Her qualifying. It had others trying and failing. It had Marco out courtesy of Alex Lloyd. It had Marco back in after 6:00 and his team mate out. It had everything. It was another great day at IMS.

    I was wet twice, but now I’m sunburned, tired and looking forward to next Sunday!

  2. Safe drive home, George & Susan! Thanks for all the updates over the weekend! Fantastic, as always!

  3. Thanks for all the posts. I am jealous I couldn’t be there, but I planted myself in front of TV and internet all weekend. This was one of the most exciting qual weekends that I can remember.

  4. Brian McKay Says:

    Thanks for blogging.
    Glad that you had a good time.
    I hope that you’re having a safe drive to home.
    I hope that Oriol Servia wins the 500.

  5. I am curious as to what HRH was referring to as the problem that they need to fix. Too bad about HRH, too. I like him and hate to see the race go on without him or Mike Conway.

    • “HRH”? His Royal Highness? Is that what we’re calling James Jakes now?

      Great job this weekend, George. Glad you had an even better time than those of us who watched on TV did, and hope to see you at the track this weekend.

  6. Great stuff as always, George and Susan. You made me feel as if I were there with you, the sign of great writing.

    I know that some feel the day was contrived and unfair, but I loved it! Sports is about drama, and today, there was drama in spades. If you gave out a list of the 40 drivers who attemped to qualify and asked any INDYCAR fan who wouldn’t make the field, I’m not sure you would find many-if any-who would say an Andretti Autosport driver would be on the sidelines, much less two. This is shocking. I would love to have a microphone in their debrief today.

    Kudos to Alex Lloyd for putting one of Dale Coyne’s cars in the field. They were slow all day, but Alex came through when he had to. That showed guts.

    Can’t wait for next Sunday to come. I have a feeling this will be one of the more interesting INDY 500’s in quite some time.

  7. Mike Silver Says:

    After years of the results being cut and dried, Saturday was fantastic. I look for more of the same next Sunday. I hope they decide to keep the Fast Nine at one run per car. That added a lot to it. Thanks for the great reporting, George.

  8. It was great meeting you guys! Get some rest! :)

  9. Ron Ford Says:

    Thanks for the posts George and Susan from those of us who could not be there. Certainly the weekend did not lack for drama. Sheesh!

    I hope that the story about Andretti trying to buy out Bruno Junquira’s ride for RHR proves to be unfounded. Regardless of the rules and regardless of the money and sponsor aspects involved, a driver should have to earn his way into the race. Bruno has earned his way into the race. Two years in a row actually.

  10. Wow i feel for Hunter-Reay but how do you bump Bruno Junqueira
    Bruno deserves that ride ! he drove that car to be in the greatest race in the world
    would foyt give up his seat, no way !
    all i can say is wow
    you know bruno was only one in few to sign a autograph for my son
    shame on all the drivers past and present that won’t even smile or wave to you
    we are the fans and they forget that
    thanks to charlie kimball great person had time to talk and take pics and autographs

  11. Alex Yoong Fan Says:

    Sunday was a BIG FARCE, people.

    We were all duped.

    All that last hour stuff, was pure bullshit. If Marco didn’t qualify, he would have have taken the Foyt ride. If Danica got rained out, she would have gotten the ride.

    Those 3 were NEVER going to miss the race. And all of us suckers who bought into are completely that stuff.

    Next year, lets just line up the 33 most funded cars and screw qualifications. As we have seen, quals mean nothing when you have a sponsor to help buy your way in.

  12. Anyone with half a brain knew that Marco and Danica would be in regardless of what happened on Saturday. They would have pulled #43 to get Marco in (John even admitted he’d give up the seat “for family”) and they would have worked out a way for Danica to be in as well. Do I wish Michael Andretti would take his lumps like a man, like Jay Penske did? Sure. But anyone who actually thought he would do that is fooling themselves. We were sitting under the SE Vista during the second rain delay and basically came to the conslusion that Foyt would probably sell #41 if someone offered enough. It was no surprise.

    There was plenty to watch and plenty going on without even thinking about Andretti and his team.

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