Ryan Hunter-Reay will get to race in the Indianapolis 500 after Andretti Autosport and A.J. Foyt Racing confirmed the Andretti driver was taking over Bruno Junqueira's qualified car.
Andretti Autosport driver Hunter-Reay had failed to qualify for the race last weekend, being knocked out of the field by teammate Marco Andretti at the end of Bump Day. But under Indy 500 rules, teams can switch drivers after qualifying, with the car being moved to the back of the field. Michael Andretti and Foyt's squads therefore completed a deal for Hunter-Reay and his sponsors to move to Junqueira's car, which the Brazilian had qualified 18th on a one-off appearance. The machine will carry a livery combining both Foyt and Andretti's backers.
"There has been an incredible range of emotion these past few days," said Hunter-Reay. "Commercial decisions and corporate support are what makes it possible for both of 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."
Hunter-Reay previously drove for Foyt in the latter part of 2009, taking the injured Vitor Meira's place after his previous team Vision Racing ran low on funds. Foyt said he felt it was important to help Andretti's team under the circumstances.
"We've been competitors for many years but still it's the kind of relationship when someone is really down and out, you can't turn your back on them – at least I can't," said Foyt. "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 out. I know it's a tough deal for Bruno but he understood the situation. I appreciate that more than anyone knows."
It is the second time in three years that Junqueira has had to hand his car to another driver after qualifying for Indy. In 2009 he got a second Conquest Racing car into the field then had to move aside for regular driver Alex Tagliani, who had failed to qualify. Junqueira on Monday night expressed resignation about the situation in an exclusive interview with RACER. Andretti added that he found it poignant to see the long-time rival Foyt and Andretti families collaborating in the Indy 500's centenary year.
"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," said Andretti. "It's a credit to A.J. for being willing to help us with one of our full-season IndyCar entries at a time when we need it."
Foyt's full-season driver Meira will start 11th. Andretti also has John Andretti, Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti in the field, but Mike Conway joined Hunter-Reay in non-qualification.