INDYCAR – Hunter-Reay to Replace Bruno

Business is business right? Who says that qualifications for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 have to end on bump day? Well if you are in the Andretti Autosport camp who had two drivers fail to make the field, then qualifications do not stop until all of your cars are in the show. If your cars cannot do it on speed, then you bring out the biggest weapon of all….the wallet.

It was announced today that Ryan Hunter-Reay who was bumped at the last possible moment by Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti, would in fact be in the Indianapolis 500 as a replacement for Bruno Bruno Junqueira. Rumor had been swirling all day that a deal was in the works to have Hunter-Reay take the seat, but it wasn’t until earlier this afternoon we would finally find out what we all feared. Bruno has officially been screwed twice in three years now. Lets take this for what it is and step back a second.

Who is not at fault:

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– Obviously Junqueira is innocent as he is the one getting tossed for someone who did not make the race. His 19th starting spot that was earned on Pole Day is now nothing.

– Ryan Hunter-Reay is innocent all counts. The man is a stand up guy and is just the driver. He is not responsible for back room politics and illegal drug deals that go down between the team owners.

– INDYCAR is also innocent. While their reputation will take a shot for this, there is nothing in place like other major league sports to stop such transactions that are lopsided and wrong. I think going forward we must look at putting something in place to stop ride buying. This stuff does happen, but it is wrong each and every time it happens. I don’t care what results came from it. INDYCAR must now go to the drawing board as a governing body to stop such actions that are obviously not popular amongst its fan base (see Twitter).

Who IS at fault:

– Andretti Autosport (mainly Michael): To be honest, the qualifying effort by the Andretti team was laughable. How does the third best team in the series have two cars miss the race? You should never have been in that position. It is one thing if it happens once, but this is a growing trend the last couple years. I am tired of everyone saying TK was the teams saving grace as well. The man is super talented as a driver and can set up a car. However, there is nothing he can do to help AA. The problem lies in the lack luster engineering department and to a degree. For whatever reason, they cannot set up a car to save their lives at Indianapolis. As a result, Tom Anderson was shown the door today. The drivers are also at fault as they have input into the process also.

Further more, the way in which Andretti instantly ran for the checks and money supply is ridiculous. Your cars failed to make the show. That is the end of the story. Since when has it been ok to just wave money around after you fail to qualify? Why the heck do we even run qualifications? Just because it has happened previously does not make it right on any level. The move by Andretti today has left a black stain on this year’s race and completely undid the excitement and buzz generated by Bump Day results. But as always it takes two to tango.

– A.J. Foyt Racing: Not sure why I am writing this because I know that A.J. does not care. He is of the belief like most that opinions are like….well you know. However, this race team is guilty and have a part in staining this year’s race. The reason sighted for the sale of the car was financial difficulties. It has been reported that A.J. was funding the second car out of pocket. So my question is why were you fielding a second car period?!? If you cannot afford to run the car or if you are going to complain about having to spend the money, why even enter? The results are probably going to be the same as what we have currently and you have not thrown INDYCAR into disrepute. I understand folks that this is a business decision and I am sure Michael compensated A.J. rather well. The problem is, the manor in which you have done it is just plain wrong. It is very similar to making a deal with the mafia to keep your mom in her house because she can’t pay the mortgage. Just because you are doing it for the right reasons, does not make it right.

A.J. has always been very strong in his beliefs for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500. He is even this year’s pace car driver. He was voted the greatest of all time at the speedway. He has now however tossed those fundamental beliefs and values to the curb in favor of a nice paycheck. Dare I say sellout? I respect the hell out of A.J. as a driver and he is truly the greatest around the yard of bricks, but this brings his reputation of a 500 ethics protector into serious question.

The deal is done and there is nothing we the fans or anyone can do about it. It is sad that a series that created phenomenal buzz this weekend and got a nice shot of momentum has now tossed it all away because of…you guessed it, these dirty greedy team owners. Checks and balances must be put in place for the future as the team owners (these two for this and all of them for the 2012 aero) seem hell bent on nose diving Randy Bernard’s series into the ground.

Thumbnail courtesy of IMS
RHR Picture from
Michael Andretti photo from Autoweek

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8 Thoughts to “INDYCAR – Hunter-Reay to Replace Bruno

  1. Ok to be fair to RHR & Foyt, RHR helped Foyt when Vitor Mira was hurt & burned at the 500. AJ did not try and start a second team for RHR citing as I recall RHR could go someplace better.

    I see A.J. as returning a favor to RHR for helping him.

    As for Andretti Autosport, this weekend showed how lacking their oval package is. The only team that got in day one was John with at best the 5th best car. Then during the bump day rain delay, rumors swirled fast in the paddock they wanted to yank John and put Danica in his seat. John said no way, that is totally his money and deal, not Danica’s.

    The driver who got the biggest shaft was Conway. He (Conway) is their only winner in 2011, and was high in the points standings.

  2. Shaun – well said about Foyt. One now has to question whether Trump or Foyt would get booed more on raceday. This is serious dirty pool. Andretti and Foyt need to be blasted with IndyCar’s equivalent to a 151C violation. They should know better.

    Apparently, Chip now has a way to be on pole with Scott Dixon. If he writes a fat enough check to Sam Schmidt, he can replace Tags with one of his grand am drivers and then start the race on pole…. why not?

  3. I know there are a lot of people upset, disgusted, and angry about Andretti’s buy-out of Bruno’s Foyt ride, but this isn’t the first time things like this have happened. This whole scenario stems from the fact that in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, what is important is the car. Its always been the car that you qualify, never the driver. The event itself was designed not to be a test of man, but a test of machine, and endurance event to display the robustness of various vehicles. Later, it became a quest for speed where teams and manufacturers would bring their best solution to Indianapolis. Yes, the drivers also became heros, but it was always about the machine first.

    Now, things are different. All of the machines are the same, same engine, same chassis, same wings, same tyres. Because of that, yesterday’s horse trading strikes us as wrong and bordering on cheating. It sucks, yes, but its also the nature of the Race. I’m gutted for Bruno, but I’m not going to demonize Andretti for doing everything he can to keep his sponsors happy and his team afloat. I’ll admit that last night I really wanted to pour on the hate, but as I think about the situation more, I can’t. Michael is trying to keep the business running, and this is his best option.

    I find it interesting that Andretti canned Tom Anderson. Some team is about to get a big boost to their engineering talent!

  4. What was IndyCar’s slogan….. “Fastest Driver’s on Earth”

    Apparently, that does not apply at Indy. Sucks to be RHR today. He failed his sponsors and his team, and now has to have Michael buy him a car from some pre-certified used car lot in Texas because he couldn’t pimp his own ride.

    It speaks volumes that John Andretti was able to get the car into the show on pole day, while the rest of the team struggled. I think a fair argument can be made that John would have been even more dependent on setup data from the Andretti engineers since he is a one off.

    Yes, this has happened before. Yes, it is allowed by the rulebook. That doesn’t mean that we all have to roll over and act like it’s ok. Yes, at Indy you qualify the car…. but the car qualified 19th…. not 33rd.

    So, is it allowed in the rulebook for AJ to sell his pacecar drive to the highest bidder?

    Heck, even @BryanClauson was getting in on the hate train with this tweet: “Next year let’s just hold an auction on bump day.”

  5. Mike, do you seriously think that RHR is so untalented that he was the reason that the #28 car didn’t qualify? Don’t hate on RHR here. This was a team failure.

  6. Nope, he wasn’t the only reason. Yet, he is the driver who is responsible for giving feedback to his engineer and working with his engineer to get the setup right for qualifying. I don’t think it is any coincidence that John, Danica and Marco qualified for the race, while RHR and Conway did not. RHR and Conway have the least oval/Indy experience on the team and would have benefited greatly from more practice time or input from a veteran Indy setup guy like TK.

    Them’s the breaks. It is a classless act by Michael to go out and cheapen this event by purchasing a race seat for his driver. Yeah, they had some tough breaks, but just because the rulebook allows it, doesn’t mean it is the best thing for the team and for the sport or for RHR’s value as a driver.

    Now we have to wonder if AJ has come across the Indianapolis equivalent to NASCAR’s start-and-park teams…. I wonder how RHR feels being in the qualify-then-auction seat.

  7. Bob Rogers

    In forty years of watching the Indy 500, this is the most disgusting, back room, sleazy deal making I have ever seen.
    Next year, instead of having “bump day”, just leave the cars in the garage, invite all the sponsors to come with their checkbooks and auction off the grid.
    Sure, this has happened in the past, but only within teams. That was wrong also.

  8. Ken Poe

    This is nothing new at Indy. Right or wrong (I think the rule needs to changed) this is not the first or will it be the last time it happens. Andretti Autosport had obligation to their sponsors to get RHR in the show. Foyt and Andrettis have had a long relationship. (as I recall AJ is Michaels Godfather) this is the nature of the business. How many drivers in the field are buy a ride and how much real talent, some real hot-shoes are not getting a shot. Same with F1, ALMS, etc. At Indy the only way to avoid this is change the rule so the “driver” qualifies and not the car. It really sucks for Bruno, but if I’m an owner I have to take care of the sponsor that’s writing the checks that keeps me going, pays my employees, overhead…..

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