Tagliani takes Junqueira's Indy place

Alex Tagliani will start the Indianapolis 500 despite being pushed out of the field on Bump Day, after Conquest Racing put the Canadian into its second car in place of Bruno Junqueira

Tagliani takes Junqueira's Indy place

While Junqueira - who only joined the team on Saturday and did not drive its #36 car until Sunday morning practice - got straight onto the grid in 30th in yesterday's final qualifying session, Tagliani was steadily edged closer to the 'the bubble' and then lost his place in the field when Ryan Hunter-Reay improved in the last minute of Bump Day.

Tagliani had previously failed to qualify on the first weekend having been slowed by a practice crash, before taking what looked like a safe 26th place in Saturday's session.

However with the weather conditions much better on Bump Day, a host of cars behind improved their speeds until Tagliani was the slowest man qualified for the race. With both John Andretti and Hunter-Reay making gains in the final few minutes of the session, the devastated Tagliani was left with no time to respond after being bumped out.

But late on Sunday night the team decided to pull Junqueira from the #36 car to give Tagliani the chance to race after all.

"We had the chance to qualify two excellent drivers today," said team boss Eric Bachelart. "Unfortunately we didn't have the same fate for both entries despite excellent work from everyone on the team.

"Bruno has once again shown the world how talented a driver he is and we truly appreciate the work he has done for us in this short amount of time and thank him for his excellent work. Alex didn't make the show and it wasn't for a lack of speed or a fault of his own. He simply fell victim to exceptional circumstances.

"We've been working with Alex for a long time now and have built our commercial and marketing programme around him. He has been our primary driver since the start of the season and we felt that it was in the best interest of the team and our partners to have him in the car for the Indy 500 as we continue to build our future together."

Junqueira - who had earlier described his last minute success as being more satisfying than his 2002 pole - said he totally accepted the team's decision and always knew it was a possibility.

"I knew coming into this that Alex is Conquest's primary driver and that if something happened to the first car that I would likely give him my place and I completely understand it," he said. "I really enjoyed working with Conquest Racing, they gave me a really good car and hopefully I can work with them again in the future."

Tagliani thanked Junqueira for his gesture, and emphasised that he was sure he would have comfortably qualified had he withdrawn his Saturday speed and made a Bump Day run to protect his position as several drivers behind did.

"I want to first of all say thank you to Bruno for being so understanding and to the team for taking this decision," said the Canadian.

"Obviously it would have been much sweeter if we would have had both cars in the show because Bruno and I had fast and identical cars. It's pretty much a fluke that I didn't make the field. We just got caught out.

"You never want to second-guess yourself but if we had to redo things we probably would do it differently, but now that is in the past. At the end of the day, I'm just really happy right now to be realising my dream of running in the Indy 500."

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