INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Graham Rahal was bumped from the Indianapolis 500 field by Jack Harvey, who used a last-ditch qualifying run Sunday to knock his teammate out of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” by a mere .007 mph.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan organization was in a terrible position headed into the last-chance qualifying session because all three of its fulltime drivers were in the bottom four. The final three spots in the 33-car field were to be decided by Rahal, son of team owner Bobby Rahal, Christian Lundgaard, Harvey and Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing.
Harvey needed three qualifying runs to bump Rahal from the field, which happened as time expired on the session and Rahal was left watching on an iPad from inside his car. There was no time left for Rahal to make another run and he was devastated.
His father Bobby, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner, missed the race in 1993, the year after he won the series championship.
“I knew from the start we were in trouble,” Graham Rahal said before being overcome by tears. He walked away mid-interview and sat on the side of his car, head in hands and sobbing. His young daughter approached and Rahal leaned in and hugged her while his wife, Courtney Force, patted him on the shoulder.
The 34-year-old racer has said all week he’s in a contract year and doesn’t want to continue driving for his father’s team if the cars aren’t capable of winning. Retirement is also an option.
“This place, it doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t just happen and we weren’t good enough,” Rahal said. “We were the slowest of our cars on pure pace all week. Unfortunately that happens — but you’ve got to be positive and you’ve got to be humble and gracious in victory and defeat.”
Harvey, who is fighting to keep both his job at RLL and save his IndyCar career, took little joy in bumping his teammate from the field.
“It’s no secret it’s been a struggle, even the first two runs in qualifying. The hope was all three of our cars could make it,” Harvey said. “The stress of Sunday is absolutely real, but it doesn’t change my love for this place. It’s bittersweet. You don’t want to know a teammate is out — the goal is to get all three cars in. Any moment we get to compete in this place is absolutely amazing.
“It’s an amazing feeling and an awful feeling at the same time.”
Harvey last year joined RLL after he was developed at Meyer Shank Racing, which hoped to build its program around the 30-year-old. But Harvey jumped ship for an opening in the Rahal organization and his results have plummeted.
Lundgaard, who was comfortably in the field in the 31st spot, said he was “gutted for Graham” when the session ended.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling for the team right now, but it’s clear we have to be better to keep from being in this position,” said Lundgaard, who started on the pole for the road course race at Indianapolis last weekend.
“But right now I just feel gutted for Graham. I seemed to have a little more pace than they did. I wasn’t too worried about making the field, but we wanted all three of them in and now one of them is out, and it’s not what we wanted.”
It’s not clear if Bobby Rahal will try to buy out another driver in the field to ensure that his son and sponsors race next Sunday.
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.
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