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Andretti buys Junqueira's Indy 500 spot

"This is going back to the way racing used to be, where if people were in a lot of trouble, you tried to help each other out. I know it's a tough deal for Bruno but he understood the situation. I appreciate that more than anyone knows.

"Obviously, this is a unique circumstance for our team, but the thought of AJ Foyt joining forces with the Andrettis for the Indy 500 could result in something special," said Michael Andretti, seeking to put a positive spin on the move that it likely to be highly controversial if not outright mocked by fans and motorsports media. "It's a credit to AJ for being willing to help us with one of our full-season IndyCar entries at a time when we need it."

Read the full press release from AJ Foyt Racing announcing the driver substitution.

It isn't the first time that Junqueira has made it through Indy qualifying, only to have to make way for someone else. Two years ago while driving for Conquest Racing, he found himself switched out for none other than Alex Tagliani - the same driver who has claimed pole position this year.

"Junqueira plans to open 'Junky's Indy 500 Qualification Service' as part of Speedway Main St. renovation. Target market: rich kids," quipped freelance motor sports journalist Bill Zahren on Twitter when he returned home from Indianapolis to read the breaking news. "I'm only half joking that Bruno should go into business qualifying cars then taking the big cash to walk away."

The switch is not just a matter of vanity for Andretti Autosport, or trying to cover the embarrassment of not making the cut at the weekend; in many ways, having to buy their way back on to the grid is even more uncomfortable for the team than simply accepting the disappointment.

But the team have some major sponsors who are backing them in the clear expectation of getting their brands on TV for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and the consequences of not delivering that media coverage next Sunday were too dire for team owner Michael Andretti not to act - as Andretti acknowledged in the press release announcing the deal.

"I can't thank AJ and his team enough for giving us an opportunity to put Ryan, DHL, Sun Drop and our other valued sponsors in the Indy 500," he said

Assuming the paperwork goes through, Ryan Hunter-Reay - who ironically drove for Foyt's team in 2009 - will be the beneficiary. He was the driver bumped out in the last seconds when his team mate Marco Andretti managed to improve his time and bump the #28 off the grid, too late for Hunter-Reay to fight back.

Hunter-Reay had been distraught on Sunday evening. "I can't even process this right now. It's just devastating," he said. "This is terrible ... I don't know what to tell you. This is the worst. I don't think it's really hit just yet. I can't process it."

Now, he won't have to.




Related Pictures

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Bruno Junqueira during Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 22. [Picture credit: IndyCar Media.]
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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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