Ryan Hunter-Reay Replaces Bruno Junqueira In Indy 500 In Sponsor-Driven Move
Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay will replace Bruno Junqueira in A.J. Foyt Racing's No. 41 Honda for Sunday's Indianapolis 500 in a "sponsor-driven move" that "ends up merging two of open-wheel racing's biggest names," according to Gary Graves of USA TODAY. Hunter-Reay originally failed to qualify for the race in Andretti Autosport's No. 28 entry, which was "sponsored by DHL, Sun Drop soda and others." Changing drivers after qualifying is over is "not unprecedented," but "seeing drivers switch teams is out of the ordinary and something that usually happens only if there's money involved." Graves notes the switch "moves the car that Junqueira qualified 19th to the back of the 33-car grid" (USA TODAY, 5/24). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes the No. 41 Honda will "carry sponsorship decals of the Andretti and Foyt teams." A.J. Foyt Racing's "full-season car, driven by Vitor Meira, has ABC Supply as a primary sponsor," and team Owner A.J. Foyt said that ABC Supply is "assisting with the car Hunter-Reay will drive" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/24). Hunter-Reay: "Commercial decisions and corporate support is what makes it possible for both our teams to compete and this was a commercially driven decision. I know this is not the first time this has happened in Indy 500 history but I feel terrible for Bruno and I thank him for his efforts and I hope he understands" (SPEEDTV.com, 5/23).
DOLLARS AND SENSE? IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said, "For me, as a property, we have a fantastic sponsor in DHL and Sun Drop. We also have A.J. who went out and put Bruno in the field out of his own pocket. If this deal helps A.J. financially and keeps Ryan's sponsors happy, I'm all for it. For the long-term health of the sport, to have DHL and Sun Drop and A.J. to benefit from this, that helps the series. From a credibility standpoint, I don't think this hurts when you look at it from that perspective." Driver Tony Kanaan said, "You're talking about a one-off race for Bruno, and you're talking about a full-time guy like RHR with a big sponsor that's new, and it would be a big loss if he wasn't driving in the race. It's the biggest race of the year. You gotta look at the big picture." But driver Paul Tracy referred to the move as "checkbook bumping." Tracy: "It stinks and it shouldn't be allowed" (SPEEDTV.com, 5/23).
BAD MOVE ALL AROUND: In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes under the header, "Foyt, Andretti Should Be Ashamed Of Themselves." Kravitz: "Michael Andretti, the man who engineered this swap, should be embarrassed. Foyt, who took the cash and told his driver to take a hike, should be embarrassed. Randy Bernard, the IndyCar Series CEO, should be embarrassed. ... I understand that money talks and sponsors matter, especially in this sport. But we're talking about a spot on the most prized grid in motor sports." Kravitz adds, "This is shameful, especially shameful given the fact it involves two of the greatest names -- Andretti and Foyt -- in the 102-year history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It also sets a very dangerous precedent" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/24).