Graham Rahal is greeted by his family after qualifying for...

Graham Rahal is greeted by his family after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Darron Cummings

INDIANAPOLIS — Graham Rahal sat in his car on pit row, sweating out yet another Bump Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Marcus Ericsson, the 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2023 runner-up, waited nearly 45 minutes for a chance to redeem an inexplicable mistake.

Then, in a cruel twist of fate, the angst of these two veterans IndyCar regulars vanished in a matter of minutes.

Nolan Siegel, a 19-year-old rookie, crashed on the final qualifying attempt to make the 33-car field Sunday, knocking him out of the next weekend's race — and assuring Ericsson and Rahal of claiming the final two starting spots in the series' biggest race.

“It's just all on me, I messed that up," Ericsson said after mistakenly taking his foot off the accelerator on the final lap of his first qualifying run. “I shouldn't be doing that with my experience. We're going to change the procedure, for sure.”

Siegel was bumped from the final starting spot on Ericsson's final attempt of the two-day qualifying weekend when he posted a four-lap average of 230.027 mph for No. 32.

He could have made it much easier on himself by correctly counting the laps after topping 230 on each of his first three laps in the earlier attempt. Instead, it became another chapter in an already chaotic week that included a crash Thursday. His latest miscue dropped his final lap seed to 195.411 and his four-lap average to 220.702, more than nine mph slower than the next slowest qualifier.

Marcus Ericsson, of Sweden, waits in the pits during qualifications...

Marcus Ericsson, of Sweden, waits in the pits during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Darron Cummings

Some, naturally, wondered whether there was a mechanical problem with Andretti Global's No. 28 Honda. Ericsson later faulted himself.

Still, that didn't make the nearly 45-minute wait to requalify any less anxious for the Swedish driver. During that time, he heard IndyCar officials determine crew members had made unapproved changes to his car and the team sent him back onto the track with used tires to run cooldown laps. Finally, with about 7 1/2 minutes left in the hour-long qualifying session, Ericsson got the green light to try again.

This time, he got it all right. He kept his foot down the entire run and ended a chaotic week that included a crash during practice by knocking Siegel out of the race and putting a nervous Rahal back on the bubble — again — with about two minutes remaining.

It was just enough time for Rahal to ditch the umbrella keeping him cool for nearly 50 minutes inside the No. 15 Honda on a muggy, sun-drenched day and climb out so he could see for himself whether he would qualify — or get bumped — for the second straight year.

Marcus Ericsson, of Sweden, reacts after qualifying for the Indianapolis...

Marcus Ericsson, of Sweden, reacts after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Darron Cummings

“I think this time around, I was a little calmer, probably because I've been there before,” Rahal said. “Similar stuff, you know. You're sitting there for an hour and you can't run again. The way the rules are written, you can't pull out of your (pit) box without withdrawing your time, so you are kind of at the mercy of everyone else.”

A year ago, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Jack Harvey bumped Rahal out of the starting field though he wound up starting the race as the replacement driver for Stefan Wilson, who was injured in a crash during practice the next day.

This time, he saw the promising California teenager who had recovered from his own crash earlier this week make a daring, last-ditch effort to get back into the starting field.

But when Siegel tried to top his first lap speed of 229.288, the car went high into the first turn, hit the wall exiting the turn and slid down the track before going back up the track and hitting another wall. Siegel climbed out of the cockpit without assistance and was quickly checked and released from the infield medical care center.

“I said it before and I'll say it again, I'm not going to go home because I lifted,” Siegel said. “I'm going to go home because I did everything I possibly could. Ultimately, that wasn't good enough and we went too far. So here we are.”

Nobody understands that better than Rahal.

“I know it sucks, I know that feeling," said Rahal, who shook hands with each of the four teams and drivers competing in the last chance shootout. “I just wanted to make sure they knew I appreciate them, and I know how hard it is.”

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