Hunter-Reay, Andretti Provide Bump Day Fireworks Nearly perfect weather conditions Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway led to a thrilling "Bump Day" of final qualifying for the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Knocked out of the field just moments...
Hunter-Reay, Andretti Provide Bump Day Fireworks
Nearly perfect weather conditions Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway led to a thrilling "Bump Day" of final qualifying for the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Knocked out of the field just moments earlier by John Andretti's third and final qualifying attempt, Ryan Hunter-Reay made his own last-minute run to claim the 33rd and final starting position by the narrowest of margins, bumping race rookie Alex Tagliani out of the "500" by just 0.044 mph.
The 2009 Indy 500 field is the closest in overall qualifying time in the history of the event. Just 3.0967 seconds separate the four-lap, 10-mile run of pole qualifier Helio Castroneves from Hunter-Reay's 33rd starting position.
Once again, the Honda Indy V-8 engine provided flawless performance for Indy hopefuls, with 36 drivers and teams recording a total of 31,572.5 miles throughout practice and qualifying at the "Brickyard", without a single failure.
After his Saturday qualifying run of 219.442 mph was bumped by the successful effort of veteran Bruno Junqueira, Andretti struggled to find the speed needed to regain a position in the field for most of the day, falling short in his first two attempts. For his third and final run, Team Manager Larry Curry removed nearly all aerodynamic downforce from the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda Dallara, and Andretti gained more than two mph to bump Hunter-Reay from the field with a four-lap average of 221.316 mph.
Vision Racing's Hunter-Reay then took to the track just before the 6 p.m. gun sounded to end qualifying, and in each of his four laps it was literally "too close to call" until the checkered flag fell at the end of Lap 4 and Hunter-Reay had edged Tagliani by just hundredths of a second.
Tagliani, who would have been the next car out on track if qualifying time had not expired, joined fellow rookie Stanton Barrett and former race winner Buddy Lazier as non-qualifiers for this year's race.
Activities at Indianapolis resume on Friday with the traditional final practice session, known as "Carb Day". The 2009 Indianapolis 500 starts at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 24, with live television coverage beginning at noon on ABC.
Erik Berkman (President, Honda Performance Development) on Indianapolis 500 qualifying: "The final 30 minutes of qualifying provided a great show for the fans. You have to feel sympathy for Alex Tagliani and Conquest Racing, their qualifying run yesterday certainly appeared to be fast enough to make the field. But you have to give credit to Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, getting three of their cars into the race today, and to Ryan Hunter-Reay for his exciting last-minute run to make the field by the narrowest of margins. We've now accomplished our primary goal of providing equal, reliable Honda engines for the 33-car field. Now we're looking forward to a safe and exciting race next weekend."
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#21 Vision Racing Honda) "bumped" his way into the field in the final minutes of qualifying, will start 33rd: "If you'd seen us last night, you could tell John [Andretti] and I weren't in very good moods. In the final minutes of the day, to qualify for the Indy 500, it's pretty cool. We trimmed so low for qualifying, the car just kind of 'skates' on the track. By the second lap, I was headed for the wall outside Turn 1 every lap. But we just kept with it and we're here. Like last year, we'll just try to work our way forward as the race progresses."