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Saavedra, Kanaan Squeeze Into Field On Dramatic Bump Day

2010 Indianapolis 500 Starting Grid

Sebastian Saavedra got the news while undergoing an MRI at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He’s in the Indianapolis 500.

On a dramatic Bump Day, tears were intermixed with cheers, surprise storylines developed throughout the day, and 33 starters for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” were finally determined as the gun was fired to end the two days of qualifications at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s the closest matched field by time in Indianapolis 500 history -- 3.0622 seconds – which underscores the level of competition.

Getting in were former pole sitter Tony Kanaan, who had to make a shaky run to qualify with 35 minutes left in the backup car that crashed in the morning practice, rookies Takuma Sato and Mario Romancini, John Andretti, Sarah Fisher, Vitor Meira, Alex Lloyd and Bruno Junqueira, who made his first on-track appearance in the No. 33 FAZZT Race Team car at 9:35 a.m.

Left out were rookie Jay Howard, Milka Duno, Paul Tracy and Jaques Lazier, who replaced A.J. Foyt IV in the No. 41 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing car following the morning practice.

“It is heartbreaking,” said Tracy, the 2002 race runner-up who was attempting to compete for the seventh time.

For Bryan Herta, a five-time Indy 500 starter and first-time Indy 500 car co-owner, it was the best 40th birthday present he could imagine.

Saavedra, whose No. 29 William Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport car made contact with the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier while practicing with 1 hour, 10 minutes left in the session, was transported to the hospital for evaluation. He was released “with a big upper-back bruise” and cleared to drive May 30.

Herta called Saavedra to deliver the good news minutes after Howard, the final qualifier, couldn’t knock the fellow 500 Mile Race rookie off the bubble. He couldn’t hear over the din; the 19-year-old Colombian and his family already were celebrating.

“I saw on TV my crew jumping and me and my family starting jumping in celebration,” Saavedra said from the hospital. “It’s wonderful for me and my country. I’m still trying to process it. I want to thank Bryan Herta Autosport and William Rast for believing in me and making my dream come true.”

Saavedra will be the first Indy 500 starter on the track this week – practicing and qualifying for the Firestone Freedom 100 for Bryan Herta Autosport.

“It’s the most amazing turn of events,” Herta said. “I don’t think there’s ever been drama in Bump Day qualifying like this, at least when I’ve been involved. My partner, Steve Newey, and I put so much on the line with this little team to try to come out here and qualify with a rookie driver and a bunch of guys that are just amazing mechanics. You don’t know what meant to our team because we put everything on the line to make this race.”

Once the field was full, the slowest car was placed on the bubble -- whether it’s the slowest qualifier from Pole Day qualifying or Bump Day. That position changed hands often, and it came down to Howard (on the bubble) withdrawing his time and making another attempt to solidify his position in the No. 66 Service Central/Sarah Fisher Racing car. The run blunted a final effort by Tracy, but the 223.120 mph average speed wasn’t enough to squeeze past Saavedra (223.634 mph).

“I didn’t think this would happen,” Howard said. “I was confident with a small change we could easily go out and to the same time again (223.824). I wasn’t willing to let Tracy take that away from me. I had my own destiny. I was hoping to get the job done, and that wasn’t the case. You can’t really prepare yourself for that situation.”

That’s the drama – the risk vs. reward -- of Indianapolis on Bump Day.

***

2010 Indy 500 tickets: Tickets for the 2010 Indianapolis 500, scheduled for Sunday, May 30, are on sale now. Race Day ticket prices start at just $20.

Fans can order tickets online at www.imstix.com, call the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area or visit the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street. Online orders can be made at any time. Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.

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