Danica Survives Scare, Bumps Way Into 500 Field

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 22 2011

Danica Patrick squeezes into Indy 500 field.. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)


The field for next Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 was filled out on Sunday and despite some tense moments, the field will include Danica Patrick.

Other big names who got in as a result of Bump Day runs were Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske, Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport, Paul Tracey of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Graham Rahal of Chip Ganassi’s Service Central team.

Failing to make the field was Mike Conway of Andretti Autosport, who was the winner of the street race at Long Beach earlier this season, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, his teammate.

Twenty-four drivers qualified during Saturday’s Pole Day. That included pole winner Alex Tagliani of Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

Patrick’s big scare came from the weather. She moved forward the line to  qualify as rain approached Indianapolis Motor Speedway. About two and a half hours before the end of the final qualifying session, the rain began sprinkling down with Patrick first in line and only moments away from making an attempt and with Tracy just finishing his attempt.

Had the rains been heavy enough to wash out the remainder of the session, Patrick would have missed the race.

But the rain was light, the track dried and with just over an hour, Patrick made a successful qualifying run.

She said that as she sat in her car with rain coming down, she “came to terms” with the possibility that she would not make the race.

“I feel like I need a drink,” Patrick said. ” That’s really how I feel. I might know after about two of those, maybe even one because I haven’t eaten much this weekend. I’m mad. I’m mad because I really thought we had a fast car. I really thought when we started out that we had a fast car that was fast enough to be in the top nine, even. Friday came and that kind of went away a little bit, and then to have it go the way it did, I’m relieved. I’m relieved that I’m in the race.

“I’m frustrated with some of the process that’s happened and some of the things that have happened. I’m excited for everyone that we can go to sleep tonight and know that we’re in the race. It’s a lot going on, but I’d say I’m between angry and happy. I’m on both ends of the spectrum. I think it’s just a lesson that we need to learn why we’re fast and why we’re not. We need to figure it out and until you have those answers, you can’t make it all the same. Maybe it’s because Indy is its own little person and you get what you get.”

Late in the session, with Andretti on the bubble, Conway made an unsuccessful attempt to qualify.

With 19 minutes to go, James Jakes headed out for an attempt. His attempt was slow and was waved off after two laps.

With 15 minutes left, Sebastian Saavedra rolled out onto the track. He, too, waved his attemped after a lap.

With 12 minutes to go, Raphael Matos made an attempt. When his first lap was slow, Andretti pulled out of line hoping none of the others left in the line would be able to bump him.

First to take a shot was Alex Lloyd, who took the green flag with seven minutes left. With the track cooling, Lloyd put together a great run to bump Andretti.

With three minutes to go, Jakes made another attempt. Officials told his team that he had two laps to show promise or would be pulled off, giving Andretti another shot of bumping his way back in.

Jakes was slow and pulled from the track.

With 52 seconds left, Andretti left the pits. His run was successful – sort of. He bumped his way back in but in the process, bumped teammate Hunter-Reay.

“It was either in the wall or in the show,” Andretti said.

“I can’t even fathom this,” Hunter-Reay said.”This is bad. I can’t comprehend this.”

Team owner Michael Andretti said it was a decent/horrible day.

I knew it was going to come to that,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be happy either way. I’m ecstatic for Marco, and I’m heartbroken for Ryan and DHL and heartbroken for Mike and the Hired Heroes guys and 7-Eleven. It was not a good day. It was probably my worst day as an owner, for sure. 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.

“You know, because I felt so bad for those guys. You know, there 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. So it was just — I just knew somebody wasn’t going to be happy in this team, you know, at the end of the day. We were too close together.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 22 2011
One Comment

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  • slanderq. libel says:

    Too bad. I was hoping that she wouldn’t make it. That way the announcers would actually focus on the race this time. Oh, well.