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Monday, May 17, 2010

Indianapolis or Bust: Bruno Junqueira

For the first time since 2000, Bruno Junqueira did not compete in a single major American open-wheel event last year. He looks to change that this year with the FAZZT Race Team, which will be competing in its first Indianapolis 500.

Junqueira did not race in the 500 last year, though he qualified a Conquest Racing car for the event. In a last-minute ride assembled not long before Bump Day, Junqueira put his No. 36 Dallara-Honda a solid 30th in the 33-car field, with about half a mile an hour advantage over last-place Ryan Hunter-Reay. Junqueira was never in question of being bumped by any of the other cars - though his team was a different story.

When Conquest lead driver Alex Tagliani missed the race, Junqueira vacated his seat to allow his teammate to compete. Tagliani, moved to the back of the field due to the driver chance, fought his way up to 11th place by the final lap and won race rookie of the year. FAZZT part-owner Tagliani will pay Junqueira back by giving him a solid ride for the 500 this year.

FAZZT has been good everywhere they've run thus far this year, almost always qualifying and running towards the front of the pack. In five races, Tagliani has three top-10s, was running up front at Brazil before being taken out by Dan Wheldon, and qualified seventh at Long Beach, where mechanical failure took him out with 19 laps to go. These good runs have been a surprise to most, as the equipment came from former backmarker Roth Racing.

Indy practice has not been kind to FAZZT thus far, as the team's best lap was nearly a second off leader Helio Castroneves' pace on Sunday; overall, in veteran practice, Tagliani has only been the 27th fastest driver (35th counting drivers who have turned laps in multiple cars). Junqueira has not yet turned a lap in his No. 33 Dallara-Honda. FAZZT will certainly have to find some speed with Tagliani in order to live up to its name, and not have to make the same bait-and-switch move that Conquest did last year.

Chances of winning the Indianapolis 500: C-
Chances of leading the Indianapolis 500 specials: B

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