After struggling to make time in top-30 qualifying yesterday, Fernando Alonso and his McLaren team borrowed setup notes from Penske and negotiated shock absorbers from Andretti in an effort to run a little quicker. Alonso did run about a tenth of a mile per hour quicker in a rain delayed qualifying Sunday afternoon, but it was not quite enough to make it happen.
Sage Karam and James Hinchcliffe both set four-lap averages that they should easily be capable of, and they are no surprise to make the field of 33. Fernando was looking to sit 33rd on the grid as the final car of the 6-car bump field headed out onto the track. Patricio O’ward couldn’t match Alonso’s time, and Max Chilton was well off the pace. It was down to just the Juncos team and driver Kyle Kaiser.
Lap 1 – Matches Alonso’s first lap.
Lap 2 – Faster than Alonso’s second lap.
Lap 3 – Faster than Alonso’s third lap.
Lap 4 – Bumped!
It was something of a surprise that made my heart jump. I personally am a fan of Alonso and his talents, but to see the tiny Juncos team beat the might of McLaren at the most important race of the IndyCar season gives me the feel goods.
Fernando’s 227.35 mph four-lap average was fast, but not quite fast enough to qualify. Kaiser set a 227.37 mph four-lap average to just barely make it into the show.
Juncos had a rough month of May with the team sponsor leaving at the last minute. Then, in practice, Kaiser crashed the team’s only car. They negotiated to get a second car on a shoestring budget, and got it prepared and out on track last week. To see them make the field is incredible!
Bad news for Alonso is great news for Kyle Kaiser and the tiny Juncos team.
McLaren still has the possibility to buy its way into the grid if any of the other teams are willing to sell their one-of-33 slots.