Field Set for the 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Ken SeversonContributor IMay 18, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 09:  Helio Castroneves driver of the #3 Team Penske Dallara Honda poses for his qualifying photo during qualifying for the IRL IndyCar Series 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 9, 2009 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

In one of the more memorable and thrilling final qualifying days in recent memory, the field of 33 is filled for the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

The heart-pounding Bump Day included last-minute heroics from John Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay, as they made the field, bumping out Canadian Alex Tagliani.

Andretti qualified the Richard Petty-owned Window World Dallara on his final attempt after failing to get to speed two previous times. 

After a consultation with team manager Larry Curry, and an adjustment to his car's wings, Andretti posted a four lap speed of 221.316 to safely qualify for his third straight 500 and 10th overall.

“I’m exhausted. I don’t want to do this anymore, to be honest," said Andretti.  "Just coming down pit road, you would have thought that I won the race.  I couldn’t hear the crowd, but I could see them standing and waving. The fans have always been behind me at Indianapolis."

Andretti credited his team for not giving up and continuing to change to find the necessary speed.  Give an assist to his rookie teammate Mike Conway.  Andretti's team took Conway's shocks and springs and transferred them to his car.

That and some good advice in the form of a text message by Tony Stewart to Curry helped Andretti.  Andretti admitted he was worried about what to tell car owner Petty had he failed to make the race.

"I can’t imagine how embarrassed I would have been to call Richard Petty and have him ask, “Where do you start?” And I don’t (start)," said Andretti.   

Hunter-Reay pulled out his rabbit just when it looked like he would be eliminated from the field.

Hunter-Reay was the last driver on the track before the 6 p.m. curfew and made the most of his last lap.

"Once I got going, I knew what time I had to beat, and the first lap looked good, second lap, we're all right," Hunter-Reay said.  "Then the push really started coming in, and we dropped six-tenths of a mile an hour.

"The most nerve-wracking thing was I knew it was close because we had a high 220 the first two laps, we had a low 220 the second couple laps. Well, common sense tells you that's going to be right in the middle."

Hunter-Reay needed to beat Tagliani's 220.553 speed, and wasn't sure he had after the conclusion of his run.  Hunter-Reay said he didn't hear anything on his radio and figured with the silence he didn't make it.

But it wasn't silent for long.

"I figured at this point the radio is quiet; we didn't make it. Then they came on the radio and said, "We made it, we made it," I don't even know, by a thousandth of a mile per hour. That's way too close."

Tagliani, who appeared safely in on Saturday in 26th place, was stunned and didn't talk to reporters immediately after qualifying.  But the veteran Canadian came back and voiced his disappointment.

"It’s done now. Kind of difficult to accept that fact that you need to go home with a car that is capable to be in the field," Tagliani said. 

"It’s hard to comprehend. I just want to turn the page and just get back in the car.  The car was plenty fast . It was safe to drive. The worst thing is we didn’t go out to protect ourselves."

Despite Tagliani's failure, his teammate Bruno Junqueira, a former 500 pole-sitter made the race after striking a deal to race on Friday night.

Junqueira ran only a handful of practice laps, but easily qualified at 221.115 mph.

"I think I broke a record of less laps in practice to put a car in the field," Junqueira said.  "I didn’t know how the car was going to be. I knew I was capable of going really fast here.  It’s just as exciting.

"I was very persistent. I walked around here for two weeks. And at the last minute, I got a ride. I just have to thank God, my team, and the people who helped me get a ride. I’m very, very thrilled.”

There were other disappointments besides Tagliani too. 

1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier failed to qualify when his car couldn't reach speed.  It's the first time Lazier has missed the race since 1994.

Qualifying Sunday for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine and speed: 

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 224.864
2. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 224.083
3. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 224.010
4. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 223.954
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 223.867
6. (11T) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 223.612
7. (5) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 223.331
8. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 223.114
9. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 223.028
10. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 222.882
11. (99) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 222.622
12. (2) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 223.429
13. (15) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, 223.111
14. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 223.054
15. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 222.903
16. (27) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 222.805
17. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 222.780
18. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 222.777
19. (41) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 222.586
20. (16) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 222.162
21. (67) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 222.082
22. (44) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 221.956
23. (06T) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 221.692
24. (8) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 221.195
25. (17) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 220.984
26. (19) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 221.496
27. (24) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 221.417
28. (43) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 221.316
29. (13) E.J. Viso, Dallara-Honda, 221.164
30. (36) Bruno Junqueira, Dallara-Honda, 221.115
31. (23) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 221.106
32. (00) Nelson Philippe, Dallara-Honda, 220.754
33. (21T) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 220.597


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