Sebastian Saavedra's Bryan Herta Autosport entry was bumped from the Indianapolis 500 field and then restored to it Sunday when Paul Tracy and Jay Howard withdrew their times and attempted – unsuccessfully – to re-qualify.
Saavedra, whose No. 29 William Rast Dallara-Honda made contact with the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier while practicing with 1 hour, 10 minutes left in the session, was transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for evaluation. He was released “with a big upper-back bruise” and cleared to drive. In fact, Saavedra will be out earlier than his 32 fellow 500 starters, since he will be taking part in the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race for Bryan Herta Autosport.
“I saw on TV my crew jumping and me and my family started jumping in celebration,” the 19-year-old Colombian said from the hospital. “It's wonderful for me and my country. I'm still trying to process it. I want to thank Bryan Herta Autosport and William Rast for believing in me and making my dream come true.”
After qualifying, team owner Bryan Herta and partner Steve Newey met with the media to discuss their Bump Day experiences.
Q: That was the most unusual set of circumstances. You probably thought, “We're out, now we're in”?
BRYAN HERTA: Three times. Three times we thought we were out when we crashed. We were pretty confident that we were going to have to bump our way back into the race. So when we crashed we thought, “Oh, that's it.” And then we got bumped out the first time. And I thought, “OK, you're out, that's it.” And then the time [Paul Tracy] withdrew in front of us; we got back in. We got bumped out a second time.
In the dying minutes, Steve and I hopped on the golf cart with Colin Dyne from William Rast, our sponsor, and we went down to the tech area where they're sending the cars out, because we thought, “Are we in?” We were confused. We were like looking at each other, “Are we really back in?”
I can't say I've ever experienced a range of emotions in one week, let alone one day, that we have through this whole process.
You know, we were well aware that we were going to have a roller coaster – that our race was to make the race. We knew that we were going to be part of whatever is happening today, that it was going to be touch and go. But never in a million years could we have imagined the scenario that actually unfolded – thank God. I already had a hard enough time sleeping.
Q: Where was your driver when you found out that he was back in?
BRYAN HERTA: At Methodist. They were just checking him out. But he's very happy. Very, very happy. Very happy. I spoke to his father, Wilson. The kid is really nice. Fluent in six languages. 19 years old. He's smart. He's educated. He's raced all around the world. Talented. And to be under fire the way he was this month, with a team with very little resources….
We only had the one car. We couldn't afford to crash it. We were on the limit every single step of the way. What happened (Sunday) in Turn 1 with him was nothing more than us trimming the car out in the heat and him just hanging it out and looking for that last little bit of speed that we thought we were going to need to bump back into the field.
We started at 218 at the start of this week, and we qualified at 223.6. So as a team we gained almost 6 miles an hour. And I'm very proud of the guys on the team and Sebastian and my partner, Steve Newey.
Steve was my race engineer. When we started this team, it was his idea (laughing). It just started as a conversation. We bumped into each other at a go-kart race. And he said, “Hey, Bryan, what do you think about starting an Indy Lights team?” And I hadn't really thought about it. But it planted the seed and, the more I thought about it, I knew Steve was the right guy to be my partner, because I didn't have the experience running the team, managing the budgets, putting the right people together. I mean, it's an endless task, as all of you in this sport already know.
But even more than I would have imagined, and he has been the rock that has put this together. And I know I get to have my name on the team, but he deserves an awful lot of the credit for what's happened here.
Q: You mentioned that you're a small team without many resources. How bad is the damage to the car? What's the parts situation? What have you got to do to fix it for race day?
STEVE NEWEY: The car is pretty bad off. We broke the gearbox, bell housing, underwing, rear wing attenuator, left-front suspension is junk. Left-rear suspension. Obviously, I could go on and on. There's a lot.
We're going to have the engine over to Honda tomorrow to see how much damage there is. The tub appears to be OK. So there is a lot of damage, and our guys are coming in and we're going to go shopping for used parts tomorrow (laughing).
Q: What are the future IndyCar plans for this team?
STEVE NEWEY: We're already putting plans in place for 2011. We've got a marketing partner that's working every day to try and help us raise the sponsorship that we need to expand our one-car program and put more resources together so we can invest in some equipment, and obviously ultimately the goal would be a two-car IndyCar team next year.