Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Junky: The Last-Minute Man Rides Again

We've seen him in this sort position before, you know.

2009, in a Conquest ride, getting booted out at the last minute for sponsor considerations after squeezing a low-funded car into the Indianapolis 500.

2010, jumping in the car with only 7 laps of practice on another Indy 500 Bump Day, setting the fastest qualifying lap of the day in a second-weekend limited program car.

2011, qualifying solidly for the Centennial Year 500 in AJ Foyt's second car, only again to be replaced, this time by Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Whether he's replacer or replacee, Bruno Junqueira is well-informed in matters pertaining to last-minute rides. Happily enough for Junky, this time he's the one doing the replacing.

Really, that's been Junky's M.O. in IndyCar up to this point--one-off race attempts and jumping in a car on short notice and/or with a smaller team. This weekend, replacing an injured Josef Newgarden, Junky will be doing just that once again, this for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

Fisher's crew finds their #67 entry only 14 points behind Ed Carpenter Racing for the 22nd and final position for TEAM funding next year. The team, which has been quite fast at times but has yet to register a Top 10 on the season, can catch Carpenter's team, but there's no doubt the pressure is on.
We last saw Junky in qualifying at Indy in 2011.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)

We're used to seeing Junqueira on the ovals in IndyCar, but of course in his time on CART, he ran on all sorts of courses. Even with that being the case, this will be a big challenge, at a track layout he hasn't raced, with a small team that has plenty of potential, but few quality finishes on the year. Make no mistake, what happens this weekend for SFHR will have a big impact on their season next year.

But hey, that's Junky's specialty, isn't it? Quite simply, do the most you can with the limited resources and time you've been given. The situation seems custom-made for him, really.

As much as fans are disappointed to see Newgarden sidelined for Baltimore, it didn't take long for a laundry list of potential replacement drivers to be circulated. Alex Lloyd, Townsend Bell, Giorgio Pantano, Sebastian Saavedra, and Pippa Mann were all mentioned by fans as potential replacements, no matter how improbable some of those moves seemed. Still, it's hard to fault SFHR on their replacement choice. They needed a last-minute, one-off sorta guy, and they picked the driver with the right resume for the job.

Fans remember Junky as the guy who handled difficult situations at Indianapolis in 2009 and 2011 with more grace than most of us could ever hope to summon. That's why I suspect he'll be a popular figure this weekend with the series die-hards, who have a strong sense of how justice should work in an ideal world (even if it rarely turnd out that way). If he manages a Top 10 for Baltimore, it will be a good chapter in the story of one of the best, unheralded "second-car" drivers of our generation.

EDIT: I was reminded by several readers Bruno drove Baltimore in ALMS last year--my apologies, I had indeed forgotten. Thank you for the correction, and for reading!


  1. "at a track layout he hasn't raced"

    Hasn't he driven in ALMS here last year?