Above: Sage Karam celebrates making the race.
The Spirit of the Indianapolis 500 is the small teams who come here hoping to make the race in spite of huge odds. Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed comfortably made the field on Saturday. But today a new team with longer odds appeared and became the story of the week.
It was the last run for the last row. Kyle Kaiser, who had suffered a hard crash Thursday afternoon drove the rebuilt Juncos Racing car into the field, bumping two time world champion Fernando Alonso. Forty straight hours of work by the Juncos crew paid off as the backup car finally found the speed to make the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. The celebration on pit lane was pole winning, almost race winning worthy.
Fernando Alonso could only watch as his chance to return to the 500 slipped away.
Hinchcliffe first Out
Hinchcliffe went first in the Last Row shootout and had to watch as five other drivers tried to beat his time. James Hinchcliffe’s time stood up, and he returns to the field after being bumped last year.
Sage Karam was fastest of the six and will start 31st after a tense Saturday when the car just couldn’t find speed.
But today belonged to Kaiser and Juncos. We’ll get to him in a minute. It is fitting that we’re spending more time talking about the last row than the pole winner. It has been that way since the entry list came out. The two biggest stories of the weekend involved the two smallest teams. That is how Indy should be.
Pagenaud Wins Pole; Penske’s 18th
Simon Pagenaud is quickly becoming another title contender. He backed up his win in the Indycar Grand Prix with three laps over 230 mph. Pagenaud is beginning to return to the type of driver he was when he won the season championship in 2016.
Ed Carpenter starts second. Carpente’r teammates, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones will line up third and fourth. While it was a bit of a surprise not to see Carpenter on the pole, having his team starting together still shows a lot of strength. Carpenter did not seem too concerned about not winning the pole.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the fast Nine was Will Power. The defending race winner starts sixth after dropping four spots from his run on Saturday. Colton Herta is the fastest Honda in fifth. Sebastien Bourdais improved to seventh. Alexander Rossi dropped to ninth. I can’t recall this much movement in the Fast Nine in previous years.
As my friend George Phillips from Oilpressure pointed out, who made the race got more attention all week than who would win the pole. It was definitely like that today.
Gil de Ferran said McLaren will not be looking to buy their way into the race. “You have to earn it,” he stated. There were rumors floating today that McLaren had talked to some teams about that possibility. I will sign off for tonight with another of photo of Kyle Kaiser receiving congratulations after qualifying.
I will have my quick thoughts on the weekend tomorrow. I guess they won’t be so quick but watch for them anyway. Thanks to everyone who followed along this weekend. m