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Some drivers experience agony during Bump Day

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - During the final minutes of Sunday's Bump Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, John Andretti's team worked feverishly to make his car faster. Ryan Hunter-Reay made a frantic last-minute run to avoid being bumped, while Alex Tagliani ran out of time as he anxiously waited in line to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

This year's Bump Day turned out to be one of the most thrilling finishes in the history of Indy 500 qualifying.

Andretti, in a car fielded by Dreyer and Reinhold Racing and seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty, struggled to find speed in his first two qualifying attempts. He sat outside the starting field with less than 10 minutes remaining. But Andretti's final run at 221.316 m.p.h. was good enough to put him back on the 33-car grid.

John Andretti's final run at 221.316 m.p.h. was good enough to put him back on the 33-car grid.
"I'm exhausted," Andretti said after his last attempt of the day. "I don't want to do this anymore, to be honest. Just coming down pit road, you would have thought that I won the race. I couldn't hear the crowd, but I could see them standing and waving."

Andretti bumped Hunter-Reay and put Tagliani on the bubble at the time.

Tagliani began the day 26th on the grid, but several drivers improved their positions, knocking Tagliani down to the outside of row eleven (33rd starting position) before Hunter-Reay made his last attempt.

Hunter-Reay, the final driver on the track, just managed to make the field after completing his four-lap run 0.44 seconds quicker than Tagliani's time.

"It was the hairiest day in my life," Hunter-Reay said.

Hunter-Reay left the qualification line three minutes before time ran out in the six-hour session, which prevented Tagliani from making his first attempt of the day. Indy League Racing president of competition and operations Brian Barnhart had the dreadful task of telling Tagliani time was up.

"Leaning into (Tagliani's) cockpit and telling them they weren't getting to go because we're out of time was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Barnhart said. "It was just a devastating look in his eyes."

However, Tagliani will start in the Indianapolis 500 due to a driver change made late Sunday night. Conquest Racing announced Tagliani will replace teammate Bruno Junqueira in the No.36 entry.

Tagliani, the primary driver at Conquest, will now start from the rear of the field.

Junqueira, who secured a ride with Conquest on Saturday, averaged 221.115 m.p.h. in his only qualifying attempt. He had bumped Andretti and placed Hunter-Reay on the bubble after his run.

Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 winner, and Stanton Barrett, a Hollywood stuntman and NASCAR Nationwide Series competitor, failed to qualify. Both drivers made attempts in the final hour but waved off their runs after the first green flag due to lack of speed.

While qualifications for the Indy 500 is dragged out for 24 hours during a four-day span, Bump Day has its share of excitement, as some drivers scramble in the last minutes to secure a starting position for one of the most prestigious and recognizable motorsports events in the world.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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