Monday, May 23, 2011

Tough Situation

It appears that Indy 500 bumpee Ryan Hunter-Reay will race on Sunday after all. According to reports, Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti has a deal with AJ Foyt to put RHR in the #41 car qualified by Bruno Junquiera. This doesn't surprise me at all. Judging by reactions on Twitter, this is an extraordinarily unpopular decision.
I can't find fault with the process, however. Andretti and RHR have obligations to their sponsors Sun Drop and DHL and missing a race (particularly the 100th anniversary 500) is likely a costly proposition to them. So it's not surprising that Andretti went in search of a seat in the big show for RHR. In fact, John Andretti was interviewed Sunday and asked if he would step aside in the event one of his AA teammates missed the show. (His answer: Maybe for his dad or uncle.) AJ's second car is reportedly self-funded, so it's in his best interest to accept whatever compensation Michael can offer. Honestly, Bruno had little chance of winning the race anyway.
Hunter-Reay is probably embarrassed by not making the race, but wants to make his boss and his sponsors happy, and, if given the option, would choose to be in the race.
The loser here is Bruno. He qualified for the race in 2009, only to be removed in a similar situation and replaced by 2011 polesitter Alex Tagliani. Bruno was repaid for his sacrifice in 2010 when Tagliani gave him a ride in a team car. Just to demonstrate his talent, Bruno ran a grand total of 7 laps-and qualified with the 7th fastest time. He returned this year in the Foyt car, only to get pushed out again.
This is an unfortunate situation. Every one acted in his best interests, within the rules, and a fast, talented driver who earned his way into the field will have to watch the race on TV. What should have been done in this situation? Is there even a way to prevent this from occurring again? I wish I had something more profound to say, but I'm at a loss and can't really blame any one for his actions.

1 comment:

  1. 100% right there with you. Sorry to do a copy and paste, but here's my response to the hysterical "the 500 is irreparably cheapened by this!" talk that's going on over at Pressdog's this morning:

    This sucks. There's no way to spin it. Well, OK, I'll try one meek attempt at spinning. This doesn't cheapen Tags' pole run, nor does it mean that Ganassi or Penske are in any better shape to win than they were 2 days ago. Yes, it means that one well-heeled team bought their way straight in without earning it, but I'd argue that there's still 32 drivers (i.e. 97% of the field) who did not do that (this is in contrast to the potential for up to 19% of NASCAR fields to get in via provisional, which I am definitely not a fan of). I do feel like the race and qualifying has been cheapened somewhat, but it's been cheapened in the same way that the new Ferrari FF is cheapened by having a Chrysler nav system in it. It's still a Ferrari, same as the 500 is still the 500. I guess that however awful what happened was, and however bad it is for Bruno (and it is bad, very bad) I just don't feel like something untoward like this that happened with 3% of the field is going to be the thing that makes or breaks TV ratings or drives away thousands of fans. If it starts happening every year, and with multiple teams, then by all means, I'll be up in arms about it, too. Just...I'm not to that point yet.