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Andretti buys Junqueira's Indy 500 spot

Andretti Autosport has bought Bruno Junqueria's place on the Indy 500 grid for Ryan Hunter-Reay, as the team goes into crisis and damage limitation mode over its qualifying performance.
News erupted late on Monday afternoon that Andretti Autosport had been shopping around the Indianapolis paddock looking for anyone willing to sell their starting place for next week's Indy 500, so that the team could insert one of their two regular drivers who failed to make it through Bump Day.

The top target for Andretti was the car of Bruno Junqueira, who qualified the #41 AJ Foyt car in 19th position on the first day of the weekend qualifying.

Less than 24 hours after the gunshot sounded out around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to signal the end of qualifying and the sealing of the grid, the deal had been done and Ryan Hunter-Reay's team has managed to bump their driver back on the grid via the cheque book rather than the times sheets.

Any car that has a driver substitution after qualifying has to start from the back of the grid - but being at the back is still better than not being on it at all. While driver substitutions post-qualifying are relatively common for the Indy 500, it's believed to be the first time since 1981 that a driver has been substituted by a bumped driver from a rival team.

"I got bump," tweeted Bruno Junqueira at 10.30pm UK time on Monday evening. "I will not race in the #Indy500." In a more formal press release, he was quoted as saying: "I have to thank AJ, Larry and the team for giving me this opportunity to drive at Indy this year because otherwise I would have been riding my bike in Miami. I always respected A.J. before, but after working with him, I respect him even more.

"I had a great time working with him and Vitor, and I hope my work helped them this month. I also hope the team has a great race."

Asked later if he had received any promises of some future quid pro quo in return for dropping out, Junqueira said: "We'll see."

AJ Foyt had earlier said that he was funding Junqueira's Indy campaign "out of my own pocket" after failing to attract sponsorship, and it seems as though the canny four-time Indianapolis 500 champion has just converted that into a very successful financial investment. Even so, many were shocked that the motorsport legend who has always been such a stickler for the purity of the sport should be willing to agree to the move.

Talking about the Foyt/Andretti family relationship over the years, Foyt said: "We've been competitors for many years but still it's the kind of relationship when someone is really down and out, you can't turn your back on them—at least I can't.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Bruno Junqueira during Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 22. [Picture credit: IndyCar Media.]
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Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Joe Skibinski]
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Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport [credit: Walter Kuhn]

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Steve - Unregistered

May 24, 2011 9:21 AM

What kind of farcical, unprofessional, joke of sport is it that allows teams to sell their place to someone who did not qualify? I thought it was the 1st of April when I started reading this.

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