Last weekend, racer Bruno Junqueira qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in 19th for A.J. Foyt's team. Yesterday, he sent a single tweet: "I got bump." His replacement? A large check from Michael Andretti's team.
Andretti's team failed to get driver Ryan Hunter-Reay up to speed during bump day for this year's race, while teammates Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick squeaked in. With Andretti Autosports' high-dollar sponsorship deals likely built around the most important race of the year, Andretti had to find a way to get Hunter-Reay on the track Sunday. Foyt, the four-time Indy 500 winner, pays for his two cars mostly from his pocket — and for the right price, was glad to help Andretti out.
The deal puts Hunter-Reay in Foyt's car that Junqueira qualified, which will now be bumped to the back of the 33-car field under Indy rules. Andretti also gets to plaster his sponsors — DHL and SunDrop — along with Foyt's ABC Supply advertising on the car's flanks.
Officially, all sides were courteous to each other with Hunter-Reay admitting , Junqueira deserved to race. Junqueira steadfastly refused to show any anger at Foyt on Monday afternoon, despite being the second time in three years that he's been replaced in the Indy 500 after winning the pole in 2002.
But fans were far less charitable, rightly angered that the "Greatest Spectacle In Racing" which made so much of its qualifying day drama appears to be less about who can assemble the fastest car under pressure and more about giving marketers a motorsports version of Craigslist. And as racer Tomas Scheckter told his fans, drivers aren't happy to hand the wheel to the highest bidder either.