Thanks to Foyt, Hunter-Reay gets Indy 500 ride
After a disastrous weekend for Michael Andretti’s team, the owner and his father’s old rival have reached a deal to get Hunter-Reay, the only American to win an IndyCar race since April 2008, into A.J. Foyt’s
No. 41 car for Sunday’s race.
Details of the arrangement weren’t immediately available, but it may have come down to cold, hard cash.
“We’ve been competitors for many years, but it’s still the kind of relationship when someone is really down and out, you don’t turn your back on them—at least I can’t,” Foyt said in a statement. “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.”
The paperwork likely will be filed today. Series officials still must approve the change, Brian Barnhart, IndyCar president of competition and racing operations, told The Associated Press.
Changing drivers after qualifying is over is not unprecedented. Brazil’s Bruno Junqueira, who got the No. 41 car into the field, was involved in a switch previously.
But seeing drivers switch teams is out of the ordinary and something that usually only happens if there’s money involved.
“I can’t remember it ever happening with different teams,” Barnhart said.
Hunter-Reay will have to start from the back of the field.
Seeing these two big IndyCar names cooperate is strange, too, given the rivalry between the two patriarchs of the families—1969 Indy winner Mario Andretti, Michael’s father, and Foyt, the four-time Indy winner and this year’s pace-car driver.
“Obviously, this is a unique circumstance for our team, but the thought of A.J. Foyt joining forces with the Andrettis for the Indy 500 could result in something special,” Michael Andretti said.
Andretti came to Indy with five cars, all of which qualified and got bumped Saturday. Only John Andretti, Michael’s cousin, was able to get his car back into the starting grid during the first day of qualifications.
Things got worse Sunday.
Danica Patrick had to pull out of the qualifying line when her No. 7 car failed technical inspection, then had to wait through two rain delays that nearly prevented her from qualifying for the race.
Patrick’s three teammates did qualify later Sunday, then got bumped. Mike Conway, who won last month’s race at Long Beach, couldn’t requalify his car.
Marco Andretti made it back in by bumping Hunter-Reay off the starting grid on the final attempt of the weekend, forcing the team to find another way to get Hunter-Reay in the race.
Michael Andretti called it his worst day as a team owner, and the fallout from this sub-par month has already started.
On Monday, Tom Anderson, Andretti’s competition director, lost his job.
“We did get an email from Tom Anderson saying he had been let go, that he appreciated his time at Andretti Autosport and that he is looking at every avenue to get back into IndyCars,” Barnhart said.
Anderson was hired by Andretti in December 2009 and had been in charge of the operations each of the past two Mays when Andretti’s team struggled at Indy.
He also was the managing director of Chip Ganassi’s team when it won four straight CART championships from 1996 to 1999.