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Bittersweet Drama For Andretti Autosport On Bump Day

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Who would have thought Bump Day for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 would be the Andretti Autosport show? Owner Michael Andretti, who’s had his share of drama at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a 16-time competitor, would have preferred the spotlight fall elsewhere than his four-driver lineup.

They were among 14 seeking to secure the nine spots available on the 33-car grid in a six-hour session interrupted twice by rain.

With 75 minutes left, Danica Patrick put the No. 7 Team GoDaddy car solidly in the field with a four-lap average of 224.861 mph. That left teammates Marco Andretti, who qualified earlier at 223.688, on the bubble while Ryan Hunter-Reay (223.690) sat 32nd.

Eight drivers failed to gather the necessary consistent speed to force Andretti to re-qualify until Alex Lloyd of Dale Coyne Racing, who finished fourth in the Indy 500 last May, ventured onto the 2.5-mile oval with eight minutes left in the session and put together an average speed of 223.917 mph. Teammate James Jakes sought to knock Hunter-Reay out, too, but his attempt was waved off after two laps.

That left Andretti as the final contestant. As the gun went off to end the session, so did Andretti on his qualifying attempt. Three minutes later, and with an average speed of 224.628 mph, he jumped to the inside of Row 10. That left his teammate and close friend on the outside for the May 29 race.

The fourth Andretti Autosport driver, Mike Conway, who recovered from a season-ending crash in last year's Indianapolis 500 to win at Long Beach in mid-April, also was among the entrants who failed to find the consistent speed.

“It was probably my worst day as an owner, for sure,” Michael Andretti said. “Had some real tough times here, and as a driver that probably would have been worse, but as an owner this probably ranks up there as the worst. I felt so bad for those guys. For a while I was feeling bad for Danica and GoDaddy, and then it turned to bright for them and then dark for Ryan and Mike. I just knew somebody wasn't going to be happy in this team at the end of the day. We were too close together.”

The fifth Andretti Autosport car entered, for John Andretti, will start from the middle of the fourth row (224.981), but the team had struggled to find speed during the entire week of practice. Six days earlier, Marco Andretti fused that “if you’re not going to be qualifying in the top 10 you should be worried” because of the depth of the 40-entrant list.

Marco Andretti, who finished third in the ‘500’ last year and second in his rookie season in 2006, said he feels for his teammates – Hunter-Reay a two-time IZOD IndyCar Series race winner who was the 2006 Indy 500 Chase Rookie of the Year and Conway – “two of the best in the business,” but on this roller-coaster day just about anything could be expected.

“I knew we were going to be hanging it out at the end there,” said Andretti, driving the No. 26 Team Venom car. “Really, I mean, the way we went out, it was either stick it in the fence or stick it in the show. I was expecting it to come down to the wire because I knew we didn't have the speed. We came up with it at the end there, but we were really risking it.

“To be honest, I was happier that we got bumped because that justifies us going out again. You hate to withdraw your time and then you have to lift, or you crash the thing and you're out of it. So many things could have gone wrong. Somebody was looking over me today.”

This is the closest matched field by time in Indianapolis 500 history -- 2.5399 seconds separate fastest qualifier Alex Tagliani and slowest qualifier Ana Beatriz. The record was 3.0622 seconds set in 2010.

Also not making the show were Raphael Matos, Sebastian Saavedra and Jakes. Dragon Racing's Ho-Pin Tung crashed during his qualifying attempt on Pole Day, and Scott Speed did not make an attempt.

“It’s so unfortunate, I can’t even describe how disappointed I am,” Hunter-Reay said. “If we had gotten this car in the race, we were going to be a contender. This week, this month has been a struggle for Andretti Autosport. We have great race cars; we just wanted to get through this day to fight it out. We’ve been so fast this year; we’ve qualified in the front row in half the races (second at Long Beach and Sao Paulo). This one, we just needed to get in the race.”

Lloyd is joined on the last row by rookie Pippa Mann of Conquest Racing and Beatriz of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Andretti will start on Row 10 with rookie Charlie Kimball of Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing and Graham Rahal of Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing, while Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Paul Tracy will share Row 9 with Patrick and IZOD Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe.

“It's been probably one of the most stressful weekends I think I've had in my career,” said Lloyd, the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year. “We had to qualify on Bump Day last year. I remember that being pretty stressful, and I didn't want anything to do with it this year. Fortunately, last year we got in comfortably on Bump Day; we had the speed. This year, since ‘Fast Friday’ we've lost a mile an hour each day. Honestly, I was pretty worried.

“When we got out for that final run, we had made a couple tire pressure adjustments, trying to get a little bit more grip in it. On the warm-up lap, we nearly lost it because we didn't have the grip in the tires at that point. I thought there's no way we can do this now. I saw the time for the first lap and thought ‘You know what? Maybe, maybe.’ At that point I'm holding it flat or I'm in the wall. There's not going to be a lift. The only lift that I am going to be doing is when I'm backward flying into the SAFER Barrier. So it was all or nothing, and that's what Indy's about.”

Patrick had bumped Lloyd with her qualifying run.

"It's not a fun position to be in, but I'm just glad I'm going to be in the 100th (anniversary) Indy 500," said Patrick, who has five top-10 finishes in her six starts. "I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I've always said that this place is like a person. It reads you when you're nervous and reads you when you're not confident, and it reads you when you are. It throws a lot at you, but that's why this is the greatest racetrack in the world.

"I am mad because I really felt we had fast car the way we started out, fast enough to be in the top nine even. I'm frustrated from some of the things that have happened. I'm excited for everyone that we can sleep tonight. Between angry and happy are the main emotions -- both ends of the spectrum."


2011 Indianapolis 500 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, “The Most Important Race in History,” on Sunday, May 29, 2011 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Race Day ticket prices start at just $30. Fans can buy tickets online at, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

Children 12 and under will be receive free general admission to any IMS event in 2011 when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket holder.

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

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