A Weekend for the Little Guys

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.

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Some of the crew who worked close to 30 straight hours to get the Juncos car ready after Kaiser put the car in the race.

Fernando Alonso could only watch as his chance to return to the 500 slipped away.

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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.

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Simon Pagenaud is the first driver from France to win the pole since Rene Thomas in 1919. Photo by Kyle McInnes

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.

Notes

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.

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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

 

 

Last Chance for Hinch and Alonso; Weather May Determine Pole

Today is the last chance  for popular drivers James Hinchcliffe and Frenando Alonso to get into the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.  Both have had massive crashes this week.  Hinchcliffe’s crash yesterday could not have come at a worse time. The 2016 pole winner is on the verge of missing his second straight 500 and third since 2015. he also missed a week of practice in 2014 recovering from a concussion he suffered in the first Indycar Grand Prix.

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Will they make the race?

Alonso and McLaren have struggled since he crashed on Tuesday. Electrical issues have plagued the team. Yesterday each of Alonso’s five attempts followed the same pattern- two good laps followed by a significant drop in speed on the last two.  I think McLaren came here with the attitude that they would easily get into the field. They wanted to mostly do Indy on their own. The way the series is now, that is difficult. I would have thought with their budget that they would have had a better performance despite the accident.

Other drivers looking for one of the three open grid spots are Pato O’Ward, Kyle Kaiser, Sage Karam, and Max Chilton. If Alonso and Hinchcliffe succeed in qualifying for the race, only one of these four gets in.  I think Karam makes the race. He had a difficult day yesterday. J. R. Hildebrand drove his car Friday to make sure it was okay.

The forecast isn’t looking promising at the moment. Steady rain appears to be moving in around 10 am and may last most of the day.  In that event, the last row will be determined tomorrow and the Spencer Pigot will have won the pole.

It seems that each time the Speedway os series changes the qualifying format, an important day gets rained out. It would also be a shame to have a rainout of the NBC broadcast.

Back later this morning with an update on the weather and any time adjustments.

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

Above: Spencer Pigot is on the provisional pole, beating Will Power by 11 ten thousandths of a second. Photo: Kyle McInnes

I find it difficult to get excited about the Fast Nine or being in the top 30 when there is still a chance to make the field tomorrow.  Granted, it’s a small chance, but today isn’t the end of the world.

The cars are behaving consistently in crashes, which I think is a good thing. It shows the safety features built in are performing correctly. The wrecks have looked very scary, but the drivers have all walked away from the cars.

The time used for the Fast Nine could be better used to give those trying to make the field multiple chances. Trying to make the last row shootout like the Fast Nine really hurts the smaller teams.

James Hinchcliffe cannot buy a break at IMS. This is his second major incident in five years.

I still think if a driver wants to requalify I think they should withdraw their time.  That alone adds drama to the day.

It was quite an accomplishment for Juncos to get their car on track and make a qualifying run. It will be a great story if Kaiser gets in the race.

Because of  the continuous qualifying attempts, teams haven’t had time for practice. They need to make a qualifying run to get some track time.

It was nice to see Pippa Mann at a press conference for a much better reason than why she attended one last year.

Ed Carpenter, who has all three drivers in the top nine for the second straight year, was asked if there will be team orders during the Fast Nine tomorrow. He answered, ” If there were team orders I would have been fastest today.”

Best Stories of the Day

Kyle Kaiser getting his car on track and making a qualifying run.

Hinchcliffe returning in his backup car. he’s still struggling to get into the top 30.

Colton Herta qualifying fifth as the fastest Honda.

Pippa Mann making the race after last year’s disappointment. Congratulations to Clauson Marshall, a new team, for earning a spot in the field.

Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed getting solidly in the race.

Head Scratchers

I expected a better showing from the Andretti cars. Alexander Rossi and Marc o Andretti were strong but no match for the Chevys.

Arrow Schmidt Peterson has performed below expectations all season. I hope they can find an answer overnight.

Dreyer and Reinbold has struggled all week. It took a strong late run from J. R. Hildebrand to get one car in the field.

 

I will have more thoughts on qualifying tomorrow morning.

 

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

Above: Spencer Pigot is on the provisional pole, beating Will Power by 11 ten thousandths of a second.

I find it difficult to get excited about the Fast Nine or being in the top 30 when there is still a chance to make the field tomorrow.  Granted, it’s a small chance, but today isn’t the end of the world.

The cars are behaving consistently in crashes, which I think is a good thing. It shows the safety features built in are performing correctly. The wrecks have looked very scary, but the drivers have all walked away from the cars.

The time used for the Fast Nine could be better used to give those trying to make the field multiple chances. Trying to make the last row shootout like the Fast Nine really hurts the smaller teams.

James Hinchcliffe cannot buy a break at IMS. This is his second major incident in five years.

I still think if a driver wants to requalify I think they should withdraw their time.  That alone adds drama to the day.

It was quite an accomplishment for Juncos to get their car on track and make a qualifying run. It will be a great story if Kaiser gets in the race.

Because of  the continuous qualifying attempts, teams haven’t had time for practice. They need to make a qualifying run to get some track time.

It was nice to see Pippa Mann at a press conference for a much better reason than why she attended one last year.

Ed Carpenter, who has all three drivers in the top nine for the second straight year, was asked if there will be team orders during the Fast Nine tomorrow. He answered, ” If there were team orders I would have been fastest today.”

Best Stories of the Day

Kyle Kaiser getting his car on track and making a qualifying run.

Hinchcliffe returning in his backup car. he’s still struggling to get into the top 30.

Colton Herta qualifying fifth as the fastest Honda.

Pippa Mann making the race after last year’s disappointment. Congratulations to Clauson Marshall, a new team, for earning a spot in the field.

Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed getting solidly in the race.

Head Scratchers

I expected a better showing from the Andretti cars. Alexander Rossi and Marc o Andretti were strong but no match for the Chevys.

Arrow Schmidt Peterson has performed below expectations all season. I hope they can find an answer overnight.

Dreyer and Reinbold has struggled all week. It took a strong late run from J. R. Hildebrand to get one car in the field.

 

I will have more thoughts on qualifying tomorrow morning.

 

 

 

 

Qualifying Update

 

Qualifying order:

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The cars early in the draw may have an advantage as the wind is expected to pick up this afternoon.  The temperature will be 5-6 degrees warmer by the middle of the order.

There have been few takers in the practice groups so far. Kyle Kaiser is on track. What a great effort by the Juncos crew.

More later.

Fast Friday Wrap-Up

Above: The Spirit of Indy. Kyle Kaiser consoled r after his crash this morning. Thanks to @Breakinfree086 for sharing the photo.

The Sunday rain contingency plan:  The last row shootout will run on the next available track day if the day is rained out. The first three rows will be set by Saturday’s times. No fast Nine Shootout will occur. This would make Saturday a true Pole Day, as it should be.

Just as happy hour began, Graham Rahal brushed the wall in turn two. He returned to the pits and the car went back to the garage to assess the damage. The right side tires had scuff marks on the sidewalls. Graham said in an interview they had lost some speed.

Juncos Racing is hard at work putting a car together. At least 20 crew member are assembling separate parts as they need to be on track for tomorrow morning’s practice.

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The speeds as of 5:35:

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Fastest Driver of the Day

 

Some Takes From Owners on Guaranteed Spots

This morning Team Penske, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and Chip Ganassi Racing owners and drivers addressed the media in separate sessions.  The question of guaranteed spots was asked of each owner. Their response:

Roger Penske- “If the people who invest in the sport and qare Building the sport today to where it is, I think we have great momentum from the press, from our TV partners, to commit to the full season, not have an opportunity to race here.. if you’re going to commit and run the whole season, you should have an opportunity to run in  this race.”

Bobby Rahal- ” Ithink it’s amazing that we’re in the situation we are now, where we have more than the 33 entries…. personally i think it should be the way it’s always about, that the fastest 33 and that’s it… I think that (gauranteed spots) is loyal to the history of the Speedway and the history of the 500. I think it is the way it should be.”

Chip Ganassi-” My position is it should be the fastest 33. I’m not saying it’s not going to be that. there is a scenario where it won’t be the fastest 33. I just think that’s not right. It should be the fastest 33… If it’s not the fastest 33, then the full season participants should have some guarantee.”

Mike Hull had the most interesting comment of the morning:

“…for this race they ought to give us an extra engine and we should go faster.”

He went on to say that the only way speed come back is for engine power to go up.

 

Conor Daly set the fastest time of the day with three minutes left. His speed was 231.704. During the press conference he found out he will be the first driver out for qualifying tomorrow. The first hour is key to fast speeds. Those drivers whose turns come from about 12:30 to 5 will have a tough time in the heat of the day. the last 90 minutes should be a real scramble.

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Conor Daly set fast time of the day at 5:57 pm

Back tomorrow morning to set the stage. I will update after every 15 qualifiers.

 

 

 

 

Kaiser Unhurt in Crash; Andretti First to 230 MPH

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.

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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.