From Juncos Racing via Twitter. This confirms the information I learned Monday.
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
Just before noon Kyle Kaiser spun and had hard contact with the thid turn wall. The car spun and rolled partway like Pato O’Ward did yesterday. The I’m pact put a small gouge in the track, which the IMS crew patched.
The car was destroyed. Juncos brought a second tub from their shop on Main Street in Speedway and will rebuild this car, which is primarily used for road courses. Juncos does not have a sponsor for the 500, but Kaiser had enough speed to easily be in the field.
Marco Andretti was the first driver to reach 230 mph, with a lap of 230.851. Three other drivers are also over 230. Conor Daly, Spencer Pigot, and Simon Pagenaud are second through fourth at the moment.
At 2:25, the track went yellow for moisture. The minimum down time will be thirty minutes.
Honda powered cars appear to be better than the Chevys without a tow. Ed Carpenter, however, in a Chevy is first on no tow list.
Pato O’Ward was back on track this morning in acar with the same livery as Max Chilton’s. I’m sure it will be repainted if he makes the race.
I will close with some photos of what was left of Kaiser’s car.
In a surprise to no one, Kyle Kaiser today was confirmed as driver of Juncos Racing car 32 for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Kaiser drove for Juncos this season at the Indycar Classic at Circuit of the Americas. The 500 will be just the second race in the NTT Indycar series this year for Juncos. More races are not confirmed at this time.
Kaiser won the 2017 Indy Lights championship driving for Juncos and it was assumed he and the team would move to Indycar full time. Kaiser shared he car last year with Rene Binder and Alfonso Celis, Jr. This season, Juncos began a DPi program in IMSA. Kaiser has been one of the drivers for the sports car program.
In 2018, Kaiser qualified for the 500 in 17th, but did not finish due to mechanical issues.
Kaiser is the 35th confirmed driver for the May 26 race. The 77 entry of Arrow Schmidt Peterson has yet to confirm who will drive what should be the final driver slot.
Patricio O’ Ward begins his rookie season at Circuit of the Americas as the NTT Indycar Series visits Austin for the first time.
O’Ward will join the 24 car field for his initial race of the year for Carlin Racing. Kyle Kaiser drives for Juncos in what is to date their only confirmed event. Juncos is expected to enter the Indianapolis 500.
The entry list:
Watch for a race preview later this week.
New teams, new drivers, new sponsors, and a new aero package are ready. The fans are more than ready. The 2018 Indycar season starts Friday when practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg begins.
In a three part series, I take a look at each team and make some predictions for the year.
Today I focus on the new teams. In all parts of this preview, team order is random and is not intended to be a prediction of season long results.
Michael Shank Racing
It has been a long road to Indycar for Michael Shank, beginning last year with the Indianapolis 500. Jack Harvey drives the Shank car, which has a technical partnership with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports. The team has scheduled 6 races this year so far. Harvey will drive at St. Pete, Long Beach, The 500, Mid-Ohio, Portland, and Sonoma. The team may add a couple more races. This will be an interesting team to watch. They might be able to grab a couple of top 10s, but I see them using this season to learn and build.
Ricardo Juncos may be pioneering the model for future Indycar teams. Juncos has been a long time steady participant in the Mazda Road to Indy, winning the 2017 Indy Lights championship with Kyle Kaiser. Kaiser and the team both move to Indycar this year. Juncos has eight scheduled races this year. Kaiser will drive in four, and newcomer Rene Binder will drive the other four. There is hope to add some more outings for Kaiser, the team’s primary driver.
Binder will open the season at St. Pete, then race at Barber, Toronto, and Mid-Ohio. Kaiser debuts at Phoenix, then goes to Long Beach, and finishes the season at Indianapolis, driving in the GP of Indy and the 500. The hope is to add more races for Kaiser. I hope that happens because he needs more seat time and needs to have races deeper into the season.
I think this team will struggle to get results, but they will build a solid foundation for the following years. Juncos still has a presence in the Mazda Road to Indy with Victor Franzoni headlining their Indy Lights program.
It was just a matter of time before Carlin moved to Indycar. After a successful two years in Indy Lights, including the 2016 championship with Ed Jones, they become a two car team with former Ganassi drivers Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton. Carlin knows how to run races and their two drivers have Indycar experience.
Chilton is still learning the craft and showed improvement last year. Kimball is at a crossroads. Were his problems last season a part of being on Ganassi’s B team? This will be a pivotal year for him.
I think they will have some good results and will end up in the upper half of the field.
A three race toe dip last season and now Harding is a full time entry with Gabby Chaves. In their brief time last year the team produced two top 10s and was running at the finish of every race. Chaves is a steady driver. The team strengthened their leadership hiring Brian Barnhart as president and Al Unser, Jr. as driving coach. That experience alone gives them a bit of an edge over the other new teams. Look for a consistent season with some very good results on occasion. Harding could be the best of the newcomers.
A. j. Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan, Schmidt Peterson Racing, and Ed Carpenter Racing