Harvey bumps Rahal in final seconds to qualify his way into the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500, my thoughts on the situation and Shootout and a look at what happened

INDIANAPOLIS — What do you do? Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had 75% of the four car Last Row Shootout. 3 cars would enter and 1 would go home. Graham Rahal knew last night that it was likely he or good friend Jack Harvey going home. He figured Christian Lundgaard’s car would be good enough to solidly get in and he did. Sting Ray Robb had pace and like Rahal though, he did.

It was down to Rahal vs. Harvey. That’s something he never in a million years would have envisioned when signing Harvey last year and for the last excruciating 24 hours, he knew it was going to come down to one of them being in and one of them being out.

.007 mph. That’s all the difference was between Rahal being in the field of next Sunday’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 and not. Rahal was the fourth and final qualifier of the Last Row Shootout on a sun filled Sunday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He went 229.159 mph on his four-lap average which looked just good enough.

Jack Harvey was bumped out after the initial four runs as he only went 228.477 mph. The car just didn’t have much in it and that was a lot to gain with just 40 or so minutes to figure out how to do so.

After letting the engine cool, Harvey went back out to let it cool even more. See, while sitting on pit road, it can only cool so much with fans. They went out and made a run at a slow pace to get some airflow into it.

His first lap was 171.280 mph. His second lap was 172.445 mph. Obviously well off pace. But that was by design. They were going to make one last go of it…or hoped to at least.

At 4:55 p.m. locally, off Harvey went. Lap 1, 229.393 mph. Good enough, but barely. Lap 2, 228.968 mph. Lap 3, 228.941 mph. It was going to be close, but likely not close enough. Lap 4, 228.416 mph. Four lap-average, 228.929 mph.

They had no other choice. Change tires and do it again. That’s a tall task. With likely his job on the line, Harvey put together his best four laps of his life.

Lap 1, 229.435 mph. Lap 2, 229.082 mph. Lap 3, 229.176 mph. Uh oh Rahal was thinking. Lap 4, 228.971 mph. Just enough. 229.166 mph.

He was in. Rahal was shockingly out. From the agony of defeat to the overwhelming since of relief in the same camp.

See, Rahal is friends with Harvey. He’s the reason Harvey is even with the team. It was Rahal’s recommendation. It didn’t work last year. Harvey struggled. Rahal was always there to help. Now, in the most likely difficult day of Rahal’s life, his friend bumped him out.

“It’s not a good feeling, to be honest with you,” Harvey said after getting his way in. “It’s not a moment necessarily for celebration. As a team we’re going to be starting 30th, 31st and 33rd, and I hated it today, felt like we were in the Hunger Games with our own team.

“But of the four people driving, three of them are in. I know it’s not great odds and it’s not a great feeling. To be honest, it’s unbelievable relief. I’ve got to be honest with you. It’s actually quite hard to process it.

“There’s a lot of emotions. Like massively grateful to be in the race, massively sad that we bumped out a teammate because I know what that means for the entire team.

“For anyone who thinks we’re jumping up and down celebrating, there’s a little bit mistaken today. I think the best emotion is going to sleep tonight, to be honest. I reckon the sooner we can get done with this day, the better.”

Harvey said obviously you have a professional side and you have a personal side, and he thinks professionally Graham is one of the most underrated drivers on the grid.

“I think he never really gets the respect he deserves. He’s a fantastic team player. He’s a great guy,” he said of his teammate and friend.

“On the personal side, Graham is a very close friend of mine. The guy texts when I’ve got issues or I want his advice or want to pick his brain on something. Not fun, essentially not only knocking out a team car but one of your mates at the same breath.

“Obviously me and him chatted about it. We kind of felt like it would be me or him that gets knocked out, and obviously everyone knows it’s not personal. He wants to be in the race, I want to be in the race, and the tradition of this place is tradition for a reason.

“Bump Day is notorious, and as soon as there’s 34 cars — maybe these guys are confident, but I don’t think anyone is confident as soon as there’s a car that you know is not going home.

“It’s a tough day, mate. I said to Graham, I’m sorry, I’m not sorry. What do you say to someone in that moment? I want to be in the race. I want to be in the 107th running of the Indy 500. I want to do it for me, for my family, my friends. I want to do it for the mechanics on the team, for everybody on the team, for all of the sponsors that we have on the No. 30 car, especially for people ready this weekend.

“I hate what it means for the 15 car and for Graham and all his crew because at the end of the day we are one united effort, and we know there’s a lot of work ahead, but I just said to him, I just wanted to do the best four laps I could. I’m sorry it’s bumped you out.”

Rahal was worried once he qualified on Saturday. His car was just slow and they had no plan to know how to get it right. When he went out this morning to practice, he had an issue with the weight jacker. They thought they had it fixed. They didn’t.

On his opening lap of his lone qualifying run, it broke again.

“We had a weight jacker failed during the run” a dejected Rahal said on pit road. “It’s gotten to the right that ruins the handling of the car. Ruins the aerodynamics because of the way that it changes the rear right up, but you can’t do anything. It happened on the first lap. You tried to adjust the tools in the car, which one which is the front bar, and unfortunately, everything that needed to happen. It didn’t.

“So you know, that’s not an excuse. It’s actually failed on us this morning in practice. We thought we’d fix it and it failed again on the first lap today. You know, right there and so is that enough to make a difference? Today it doesn’t make it any sweeter. Whether it’s jacker or me it still sucks.”

30 years ago on this very track, Graham’s dad, Bobby, miraculously was bumped out of the Indy 500. That was the year after he won the championship too. Ironically enough, the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing car won the pole that day, the same year as it did this one.

History just repeats itself in a cruel way.

“It hurts me it hurts. But you will get better by this,” Bobby Rahal told me when I asked him if this is something that Graham would ever be able to get over. “The good news is now unfortunately that the weight jacker broke.

“If we come back here and win next year ,then I’ll totally forget about this.”

What’s wild is, RLL just won this race in 2020 in a 1-3 result. A year later, Graham Rahal had everyone snookered by saving enough fuel to have one less stop than everyone else. He pit from the lead on Lap 118 but when existing the warmup lane, the left rear tire wasn’t secured on the stop prior and it fell off causing Rahal’s No. 15 Dallara-Honda to spin and hit the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 2.

Now, two years later, this…

Bobby was in an interesting predicament on knowing that the fourth and final lap was either going to put Jack in and his son out, or Jack out and his son in. How do you cheer in that situation as a dad and boss?

“I’m glad for Jack that for his guys and all kudos to those guys that got it together today and really happy Christian,” Bobby Rahal told a small group of reporters on pit road. “And so, you know, having been there before and you know Hinch was in 2018.

“Jack hasn’t had many things to cheer about this year, or last for that matter. So you know, I’m…I’m happy for Jack and I really, and yeah, that’s my big thing for him mentally that gets him going again. Naturally, I’m really disappointed in you know, for Graham, but what can you say?

“We weren’t fast enough and that’s what race is all about is being fast enough. What are you going to do? I feel bad for him. You know, I feel worse for the cars we gave our drivers and we’ve got to get our act in order.”

Nine days after Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing took the pole with Christian Lundgaard, a fourth place start by Jack Harvey and eighth place opportunity with Graham Rahal for the GMR Grand Prix, they hit another low on Sunday.

All that momentum. All that talk. It was all for not. They’ll start 30th, 31st and 33rd next Sunday with one car going home.

Lundgaard was only 32nd, 27th and 32nd across the three days. He was 30th on the four-lap average on Friday and the best he could do on Saturday was 231.056 mph.

Harvey was 28th, 21st and 31st this week and was 32nd on the four-lap average. He blew an engine with 10 minutes remaining in Friday’s practice too. Harvey’s best four-lap average on Saturday was 230.098 mph which was 32nd.

Rahal was 23rd, 12th and 33rd on single lap speed and 31st on the four-lap average chart. He just had no speed on Saturday (228.526 mph). That was last (34th).

In the open test, RLL went 23rd (Rahal), 26th (Lundgaard), 28th (Harvey) and 31st (Katherine Legge). Last year, they had 2 of the bottom 3 qualifiers (Lundgaard 31st, Harvey 32nd) and earlier this season in Texas, they qualified 24th, 27th and 28th out of 28 cars.

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