Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

May 23, 2011

Most Dramatic Qualifying in Years for the Indianapolis 500

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:44 pm

It is hard to believe that in a week the month of May and all the fun it brings will be a memory unless it rains again. The qualifying weekend was very compelling, and even the most vociferous traditional critics were impressed.

For fans who are sick of domination by Penske and Ganassi the weekend was great. Both legendary teams got caught with their pants down. Scott Dixon is on row one, but they ran Dario out of gas on the fourth lap of his shoot out qualification run. The closest Penske driver to the front is Will Power in the middle of row 2. He had won every pole thus for this year. Helio was trying to set a record for consecutive poles but ends up 16th on the grid. Ryan Briscoe wrecked his primary and ended up with the backup in row 9.

Up until the last moments Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti were on the outside looking in. Then, like magic (snicker), they suddenly found the few extra miles per hour they needed. The big problem was Marco ended up cannibalizing the team by bumping Ryan Hunter-Reay. Fourth regular Andretti driver Mike Conway is also outside looking in. That once powerful team has begun to suffer the effects of overstretching budgets, churning through employees like McDonalds and team cohesiveness that seems to rival Hatfields and McCoys.

Meantime, the smaller teams stepped up. Sam Schmidt has partnered with/bailed out all sorts of other teams unable to do it on their own; e.g., Tagliani, Rahal-Letterman, Jay Penske, etc. In every case except Jay Penske, he not only got them in show but on top. Alex Tagliani earned his pole position twice. Alex Lloyd’s last second bonsai run was quite impressive, and he saved the day for Dale Coyne whose rental driver could not find necessary speed. The Foyt cars got in solidly, much to the chagrin of Marco Andretti when he was struggling.

We have multiple ladies in the field again; veterans Simona de Silvestro, Danica Patrick and Ana Beatriz are joined by effervescent Pippa Mann in a Conquest rental. She worked hard all month and got it in. Her teammate Sebastian Saavedra could not.

One-offs Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon were quite impressive, and the orange Panther car Buddy is driving will soon be adorned with the Fuzzy’s sponsorship lost by Jay Penske after both his cars were crashed. Ho-Pin Tung crashed the 8 car on Saturday, then Patrick Carpentier crashed Scott Speeds 20 car. That forced Dragon out for the race. Hopefully they get their act together again fairly quickly.

Even idiot Indy Car critics have to be impressed with the quality and depth of the 100th Anniversary field, and the race on Sunday should be a dandy.



  1. I’ll admit Twice, this will probably be the best 500 in a long time. I’m pulling mostly for Wheldon, Rice, Tagliani, Tracy, and Kanaan. But there are others that would be fun to see win it as well. As long as a Penske or Ganassi don’t win I will be happy.

    Comment by Gary — May 23, 2011 @ 2:41 pm | Reply

  2. Wow, what a weekend. Congrats to Alex Tagliani, Sam Schmidt, and all all the others who just about toppled the big boys off their roosts. I wouldn’t want to be in Michael Andretti’s shoes right now–imagine the mixed feelings HE has. To those of you who still gripe about no new speed records–we KNOW there won’t be any “newwwww track recooooods” in the future, probably–but that doesn’t mean excitement can’t be generated, and there certainly was. Too bad Tagliani’s wife Bronte isn’t a driver–she’s HOT. Danica, move aside!

    Comment by Doug Alborn — May 23, 2011 @ 3:46 pm | Reply

  3. agree. great weekend. looking forward to the race.

    Comment by redcar — May 23, 2011 @ 5:41 pm | Reply

  4. Dear Defender:

    Time to eat crow as I guessed wrong with who would sit on pole (Ganassi or Penske) but I am very pleased that smaller teams and part time drivers with talent rose to the top of the time charts on Saturday and had the opportunity to go for pole…you can’t say enough for Tags and Servia as well as Buddy Rice who has been [wrongly] out of Indy Car for years…as for yesterday, what can you say about Andretti and his broken down team…I guess the sponsorship issues and loss of mechanical prowess has devastated a team that should not have had two of its drivers, including the last race winner, miss the big show. I sure wish that it was Danica and not Ryan who missed the cut so we could be free of her image and the mindless coverage of this girl already…Simona, with burnt hands, and Pippa Mann, who appears to have a personality, are much better stories than Danica and her pouting and complaining…now, onto the race and hopefully no rain!

    Comment by Neil Rubin — May 23, 2011 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

  5. There’s nothing like Indy Bump day. The total absence of provisionals makes other events seem contrived. And I am sure the IICS and IMS will find a way to get exposure for sponsors that won’t make the race.

    Comment by Mike Miller — May 23, 2011 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  6. It was a great weekend! I loved all the excitement and drama from it.
    Hopefully the smaller teams will have much success Sunday, and keep Penske and Ganassi drivers from the winners circle.

    Comment by Jeff — May 23, 2011 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

  7. I’m also pulling for Junqueira.

    Comment by Gary — May 24, 2011 @ 1:44 am | Reply

  8. Yeah, it was dramatic. It was memorable. It was epic. Right up until Monday, when AJ Foyt and Michael Andretti made a mockery of the whole process.

    Michael Andretti bought a seat for RHR, after AA Autosport and RHR sucked their way into missing the race.

    AJ Foyt sold out his driver and his integrity by selling his qualified car to another team. Foyt’s reasoning about ‘this is how we did it in the old days, you helped the other guy out’ is, in a word, CRAP. You leant the other guy a wrench. Maybe a wheel. Helped him push start your car. But I’d hazard to guess if, say, Mario Andretti came to AJ back in the day and wanted to buy George Snider’s spot in the 500, AJ would have told him to shove it up his a**.

    The only person in this whole sad affair who conducted himself with any class is Bruno Junqueira.

    I never though I’d use the words ‘Foyt’ ‘Andretti’ ‘Mockery’ and ‘Disgrace’ in the same sentence. I think even on your site I can now.

    Comment by Steven Kornya — May 24, 2011 @ 2:27 am | Reply

    • Erm…A.J.’s done this before:


      …in 1981, with George Snider’s unsponsored car, to Tim Richmond.

      Comment by The Speedgeek — May 24, 2011 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

      • And if I had had sufficient command of the English language at the time, I would have used exact same words. I didn’t. I was seven. I did, however, react the same way when Tagliani and Conquest pulled the same thing on Junqy in 2009.

        That it’s happened before doesn’t change the fact that, while it is in the letter of the rules, it is about as antithetical to the spirit of the rules as you can go. It doesn’t change the fact that this stinks to high heaven.

        (And by the way, as a (described by defender, err disciple) idiotic apologist fan of a series that killed itself. tw!ce, I thought it was crap when Scott Goodyear pulled the switchy-changy thing in ’92.)

        Comment by Steven Kornya — May 24, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

      • Hey, I’m not defending what A.J. did, just saying that the scenario that you threw out there (“if, say, Mario Andretti came to AJ back in the day and wanted to buy George Snider’s spot in the 500, AJ would have told him to shove it up his a**”) almost happened, to the exact letter 30 years ago, just minus the Mario factor.

        Again, this isn’t me defending A.J.’s actions, but all I can assume is that by making this deal, A.J. is trying to look after the long term health of his team (like, say, if ABC Supply were to leave after this season, or maybe he’s pondering running a pair of cars next year or just trying to make sur that he’s got the cash to run one car really competitively), or he’s trying to put some cash in the bank so’s that he can run a second car at Vegas or somewhere else later in the year before that extra Dallara becomes a paperweight. This is me guessing, though.

        I’m not a fan of the switchy-changy stuff, either (in fact, I was pretty mad when Groff got kicked out of that car, too, but could only yell at my On Track magazine and not at people on something I didn’t know existed yet), but I totally get why it’s happening. Unless the rule’s changed, it’ll happen again.

        Comment by The Speedgeek — May 25, 2011 @ 2:51 am

  9. Mr. Kornya is exactly right. Starting spots are now simply commodities to be bought and sold.
    There is no longer any reason to push it to the limit on Bump Day. If you don’t make it, no problem. Just find a one-off team, throw some cash at them, and buy your way back in.
    It would be nice if Bernard would step in and stop this travesty “for the good of the sport” but I won’t hold my breath waiting.
    Foyt is the last person I would have ever expected to pull an end run like this. His attempt to spin this would be laughable if it weren’t so disgusting.

    Comment by Gurney Eagle — May 24, 2011 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

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