23 May 2011
Indy 500: Danica scrapes in; Conway's out
A dramatic climax to a week of practice and qualifying at Indianapolis saw Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, Pippa Mann and Paul Tracy get on the grid for the 2011 Indy 500.
Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, Pippa Mann and Paul Tracy were among those to survive a nail-biting rain-interrupted Bump Day climax to Indianapolis 500 qualifying, but others - including Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway - were left thoroughly gutted to miss out on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
At one point it seemed as though rain might stop Danica Patrick from even making at attempt to get on the grid, as an earlier delay passing technical inspection meant that she had only just finally got to the head of the line when the rain started and the yellow flags came out. If the track didn't dry out in time, the grid would be finalised without its biggest and most bankable star name.
"It kind of seemed like everything was just not going the way it needed to go. I just kept going up against things, whether it was not explaining the loss in speed yesterday or going through the tech line and not passing and having to go back through, losing my spot, which was second," she said.
"And then to get in line again after the rain had cleared and have it come with only me left to go, it just kind of seemed like maybe it's just not supposed to happen this year. That's just the roller coaster you ride here. It makes you value the good days even more and it makes you want to try like hell to never have these days ever again."
When she did finally get her run in, it was the second fastest of the day - and she was safely on the 33-car grid next Sunday. But right until the moment she saw the time come up, she had no idea what to expect from the car.
"I had no idea. I can tell a little bit when the lights come up when I accelerate and how many lights I can see on the steering wheel and going down the back straight and coming around and then around 3 and 4 and got to the front straight, and it felt good. Got around the short chute, had the lights on, out of 2 it felt good. Getting lights down the back straight, and I thought, 'Okay, it seems like it's okay right now.' Then you come back to start-finish line and it showed 225, and I was happy."
The ecstasy of the moment understandably went straight to her head: "I feel like I need a drink. That's really how I feel," she said. "You learn to never take it for granted. That's definitely one thing.
"The relief that comes with it, because the highs are what we go for here. So the lows are really low, which means that the highs are really high here. And until you've experienced them, you've never really experienced Indy for all it can be for you. And I've been there. I feel lucky for that."
While she was feeling the highs, two of her team mates were experiencing the lows. British driver Mike Conway was by his own admission absolutely devastated by failing to make the grid for the Indy 500, the race that nearly ended his career in that horrifying last-lap crash in 2010.
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