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.

"It's a tough break - both me and Ryan, not in the show. I'm pretty gutted," he said. "Danica spent some time with me, putting me back together, after I got back to the garage. I'm obviously happy for Danica, Marco and John to be in, but gutted for me and Ryan. I never wanted to experience this feeling. You see it happen every year, and you hope it's not you. It's not nice."

At least Conway's exit was, to be brutally honest, clearly a possibility right from the disappointing Opening Day. How much worse, then, for Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had looked to be safe right up until the dramatic final moments of Bump Day that first saw Alex Lloyd pull out a spectacular lap to save his own chances and bump Marco Andretti off the grid, and then Marco going out even as the gun shot signalling the end of qualifying echoed around the Speedway - and managing to bump Hunter-Reay off the grid, with Ryan left with no chance to respond.

"I can't even process this right now. It's just devastating," he said. "This is terrible. It was my teammate that bumped me out of the field. I've been on that side of it before ... This is a hard one to take. I don't know how it's going to be on Race Day. We just missed it. We couldn't find the speed. 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."

Marco Andretti was the driver who bumped his own team mate out, and he was walking a fine line between the joy and relief of making the Indy 500, and the knowledge of what it had done to his team mate.

"It was a roller coaster day," he said. "I think the pair of them [Mike and Ryan] are two of the best in the business. Ryan has had terrible luck this year. Fortunately, Mike got a win, but Ryan has been in a position to win a lot of races this year and came short for whatever reason."

The moment when he got bumped with six minutes to do must have been a heart-stopping moment, but Marco said that in fact he was glad it had happened. "You know what? I was in the mindset whatever is going to happen is going to happen ... I knew we were going to be in this position. So I think we were just kind of prepared for it, and we showed up when we had to.

"To be honest, I was happier that we got bumped, you know, because that justifies us going out again. You hate to withdraw your time and then you have to lift, or you crash the thing and you're out of it. So many things could have gone wrong," he explained. "When I woke up today, I was ready. I was just ready for it, and I was expecting to be - luckily we were in line at the right place at the right time. But I was expecting it to come down to the wire because I knew we didn't have the speed. We came up with it at the end there, but we were really risking it."

Alex Lloyd had also run the gamut of emotions in those closing minutes, and could scarcely believe that it had come together at the last minute when all had appeared lost.

"It's been probably one of the most stressful weekends I think I've had in my career. I remember it last year, we had to qualify on Bump Day last year. I remember that being pretty stressful, and I didn't want anything to do with it this year," he said. "I think the chances of us making the show seemed pretty low ... I had to lift so badly in 3, I thought there's no way we can do this now. I saw the time for the first lap and thought you know what? Maybe, maybe.

"At that point I'm holding it flat, or I'm in the wall. There's not going to be a lift. The only lift that I am going to be doing is when I'm backward flying into the SAFER Barrier. So it was all or nothing, and that's what Indy's about.

"[Then] the oil temperature went sky high and on the third lap the engine was vibrating so much, by the fourth lap I couldn't see where I was going," he continued. "I was absolutely convinced the thing was going to blow up. I thought there's no way this thing will last. I've never felt this way; I was looking in the mirror to see if I could see smoke. But it held on, and we made it happen."

He said the sense of emotion and achievement today exceeded even those he had felt at the end of last year's Indy 500: "When we saw the crew guys' face when I pulled up and you see not just what it means for myself but what it means for the whole team, for the crew guys, for their families, all the effort they put in all year long, for Dale over there, it felt better than finishing fourth place."

By contrast with Lloyd, fellow Brit Pippa Mann had a rather stress-free day of it, one run being enough to secure her a position on the grid. She was delighted with how it had turned out: "Well, we finally cured the speed problem we had. We've cured our handling issues. We made so many changes overnight ... I went out there with no idea of what I was going to have going into that run [and decided] 'OK, this will work.' I wish I had that knowledge going in, and we could've been a bit braver."

During the second rain delay, Pippa was busy hoping and praying that the wet weather would stay around and lock the grid up before anyone could bump her out: "[I had] all my fingers and all my toes crossed. I know it's bad sportsmanship, but I really [wanted the rain to continue] so that I didn't have to do that again. I'm sorry, everyone else. I know it's cruel, but does anyone know a good rain dance? I just looked at the sky and thought, 'Come on, give me a break; you haven't done it all week.'"

Charlie Kimball also made the grid without any dramas, and made history of his own in a different way: "When I got out of the car I thought, 'I've qualified for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500.' Now it's a dream come true. And to do that as the first licensed driver with diabetes to qualify for the Indy 500 is special; not just for me but for the whole diabetes community out there. I hope I get a chance next Sunday to stop and soak it all in, because it's going to be probably one of the greatest days of my life so far."

Ryan Briscoe also overcame the problems bedding in his space car, which was replacing the race car written off in a Saturday morning practice crash. "For some reason this T-car hasn't been pulling the speeds we've been expecting with what we were seeing with the primary car. Unfortunately, with my crash yesterday, we can't get that back together. We're racing with the T-car.

"So I'm just looking forward to the race. We're going to have a great race car. I'm starting in the back, but we'll be able to get to the front. I've got a Roger Penske calling my race, and we want to bring one home for IZOD."

Of the other drivers not to make it, James Jakes was the only rookie running not to get through on Bump Day. He was philosophical and looking at this year as a learning experience. "My thanks to the guys on the Dale Coyne crew, and Alex (Lloyd, teammate) did a great job at the end. The event is awesome, and this is a great show. Hopefully I can be a part of it next year."

The more experienced Raphael Matos also missed the grid and was trying to deal with the emotions. "Oh, man. I would just say that qualifying in Indianapolis is the most stressful day. Bump Day is definitely the most stressful day. I don't ever want to experience this again," he said. "I'm very frustrated. Obviously, the whole team is bummed out. All we can do now is keep our heads up and regroup ourselves and go to the next one. Unfortunately, racing is like that sometimes."

With all his years of years of experience, Paul Tracy is certainly more familiar than most with the highs and lows of motorsport, and of the heightened emotions of Indianapolis in particular. Last year he was hit with the lows after a team strategy call to withdraw a qualified time led to him missing out on the race; this year, with Dreyer & Reinbold, he set the fastest time of Bump Day.

"The waiting is stressful. Over last night and this morning, I got a fever blister on my lip. That's how stressful it is. I don't get them unless I'm really stressed out. That's what Indianapolis will do to you. It'll drive you crazy. It'll give you the best highs and the biggest lows.

"I mean, with '02, last year, and qualifying a lap and a half in the rain, I definitely have a flair for bringing the dramatics."

In which case, Indianapolis is the perfect setting for Tracy, and he'll take to the stage with the other 32 drivers who made it through nine days of gruelling, weather-afflicted practice and qualifying to take the green flag at noon local time on Sunday, May 29.

Full times from Pole Day are available.Full times from Bump Day are available.
Read more about how the Bump Day drama unfolded.How the starting grid will shape up on May 29



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