Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Indy 500: Pole day, bump day, checkbook bump and predictions: Tagliani on pole, Andretti bumps in, Hunter-Reay in as Junqueira got checkbook bumped.

Over the last few days, the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 took shape as the starting lineup was determined. Normally for just about any given race (except for a few including The Daytona 500), there is one qualifying session to determine the starting lineup for the race and normally no real drama.

However, there are a few races each Motorsports season that are so big that qualifying actually becomes a spectacle in its our right and that is an understatement when it comes to the Indianapolis 500. Both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IRL put a lot into the qualifying show itself.

For 2011, the Indy 500 features two fill days of qualifying.

On the first day, Pole day, the big story wasn’t who was locked in, but it was actually the fast nine drivers going head to head late in the day for who would win the pole and who would start where. I was a little surprised to see a few underdogs make the fast nine, but it wasn’t until the fast nine competition got underway that I was truly surprised.

One by one, each driver rolled out and logged times, I really thought that the front row would have be made up of Penske Racing and Ganassi Racing drivers.

However it was Dario Franchitti that made an impression when his crew missed the fuel calculations and Franchitti ran out of fuel on his final qualifying lap. It was definitely heart breaking to see Dario Franchitti walk to the garage after running out, but it was also funny because I didn’t think that any driver could run out of fuel on a qualifying lap, but you learn something new everyday.

But in the end, it was the underdog story of Alex Tagliani driving for Sam Schmidt Racing grabbed the pole for Sunday’s Indy 500. What a great story that is especially for all that Sam Schmidt has gone through in his racing career. Tag will have Scott Dixon and Oriol Servia along side of him on the front row come Sunday.

On day two, it was bump day. This is normally where 80% of the “drama” and storylines leading up to the Indy 500 happen. A lot of fans and media seem to love this day, personally it doesn’t really excitement me considering leap frog doesn’t excitement, but it does add drama. And so did the rain, that made it interesting as once again the final 20 minutes would determine the starting lineup.

In the end, it would be a bittersweet day for Andretti Autosport as Danica Patrick would finally bump her way in and in the closing seconds, so would teammate Marco Andretti would get in, but at the expense of his third teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay as he and his other teammate and Long Beach winner Mike Conway would both fail to qualify for the Indy 500.

Remember, there is no guarantees for starting positions when it comes to the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR should take note, anyone can be bumped and not make the race, race winners and champions included.
Now normally his would be the end of the drama until Sunday, however a third element creped its way in the Indy 500 and its called “Checkbook bump”(thanks Paul Tracy for giving that name and he’s dead on there, perfect name).

As on Monday, Andretti Autosport announced that they have bought Bruno Junqueira's ride at A.J. Foyt Racing for Ryan Hunter-Reay. And it turn, Bruno Junqueira would be bumped out of the 2011 Indianapolis 500.

Personally in the eyes of this Motorsports fan, this shouldn’t even be an option, once a driver makes the field, that driver should be locked in and that’s it. But it also makes Andretti Autosport, A.J. Foyt Racing, the IRL IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway look like idiots.

I feel really bad for Bruno Junqueira, he earned his spot in the 2011 Indy 500 and to have it taken away from him after he did all that work to make the race is terrible and a joke. But I’m not surprised here, this isn’t the first time “checkbook bump” has happened and even in NASCAR we have it too. It is terrible and you feel bad for the driver that is now pushed out, but that’s part of the game and until it can’t be an option anymore, it will continue to happen to a long time to come.

One note, despite many fans feelings, its not Ryan Hunter-Reay that I blame, but the rest of them.

Predictions for the Indy 500:

1. I believe that there are only five favorites and one wild car to win the Indy 500. Dario Franchitti  is the favorite, along with Will Power, Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe. The wild car starts on the outside of the front row, Oriol Servia.

This is a 500 mile endurance race and you have to be there at the end especially on strategy, fuel, tires, everything and that last pit stop needs to be perfect. That topped with luck might win you the Indy 500.
2. Personally I’m picking Dario Franchitti to win, he is a former winner and has the team to win proving they get the fuel calculations correct.

3. Watch for “the big one”, with so many drivers out there moving around for position, one bad move can trigger an accident and with the field so close together, one accident can become a huge car pileup. But I sure hope that this is a clean Indy 500.

4. Watch for an underdog to make a late race charge to the win. Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy will play a factor in the final 100 miles if they make it.

5. The 2011 Indy 500 will be would many expected it to be, exciting and entertaining. 

Full Disclosure: This article was originally published on Brian Vermette's former blog called BVinsight, however once RaceDriven.com was re-launched and rebrand, BVinsight was renamed BVDaily with 33 of 44 articles being published here on RaceDriven due to subject.