Alonso, Hinchcliffe On The Spot At Indianapolis

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 19 2019
Fernando Alonso spent a lot of time sitting in lines at Indy on Saturday. (Photos by INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Six drivers will vie for the final three starting spots in the 103rd edition of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday during a Last Row Shootout featuring the shocking, high-profile presences of Fernando Alonso and James Hinchcliffe.

Saturday’s fastest 30 qualifiers have secured starting positions in the traditional 33-car field for the NTT IndyCar Series race around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 26. Led by Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter Racing, the top nine will compete for pole position. The drivers who qualified in the 10th through 30th positions are locked into those grid positions for the race. 

At the other end of the grid, Alonso, Hinchcliffe, Max Chilton, Kyle Kaiser, Sage Karam and Patricio O’Ward are facing the prospect of one final four-lap/10-mile qualifying attempt. Only the fastest three will get to fire engines for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

The 2017 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Alonso said he would prepare for Sunday’s one-and-done the same as he did during five frustrating attempts in his No. 66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet on Saturday.

Fernando Alonso has a last shot to make the field at Indy on Sunday.

“I think today I approached like they were the last four laps,” said Alonso, the two-time Formula One World Driving Champion from Spain. “You try to go in, and yeah, more or less you are happy with your run, but then when you see the times, it’s not enough, obviously.

“We’ll try to do these four laps clean, no mistakes, try to be flat all four. And then if it’s enough to be in the top three of the six, we’ll take it and we will try to do a good race. If it’s not enough and we are fourth of six, it’s what we deserve. There were maybe three cars quicker than us. So nothing we can do more than that. Try to execute the runs the best we can, and same thing we did today _ stay calm, stay focused, and yeah, try to do a good job.”

Pigot, the second qualifier of the day in cooler conditions, posted the fastest attempt at an average speed of 230.083 mph. Driver of the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Pigot was joined in the top nine by teammates Ed Jones _ sixth in the No. 63 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet _ and team-owner Carpenter _ seventh in the No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet.

“I feel great,” said Pigot, whose best Indy 500 start was sixth in 2018. “Obviously, it’s great to be on top of the speed charts and also to have all three of our Ed Carpenter Racing cars in the Fast Nine for the second year in a row. Just a testament to all the work everyone does in the shop throughout the offseason and leading into this race.”

James Hinchcliffe will need a big Sunday to drive in the 500 next weekend.

Team Penske also advanced three drivers into the Fast Nine Shootout. Reigning Indy 500 champion Will Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet, was second-fastest overall (230.081 mph), finishing his run a scant 0.0011-seconds slower than Pigot. Simon Pagenaud qualified provisionally third in the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet and Josef Newgarden was fourth in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Chevrolet.

Also qualifying in the top nine were NTT IndyCar Series rookie Colton Herta, fifth in the No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda; 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, eighth in the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda and four-time Indy car season champion Sebastien Bourdais, ninth in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda.

The Fast Nine Shootout to determine the NTT P1 Award winner and starting order of the Indy 500’s first three rows will see those drivers each making a four-lap run in reverse order of their speeds from Saturday. That segment is scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. (ET) Sunday, following the Last Row Shootout at 12:15 p.m. NBC will air live coverage of Indy 500 pole/bump day from noon-3 p.m.

Pippa Mann clung to the 30th and final locked-in position Saturday with a four-lap run of 227.244 mph in the No. 39 Driven2SaveLives Chevrolet for Clauson-Marshall Racing. It was vindication for the only female driver entered in this year’s Indy 500, a year after she was one of two drivers who failed to qualify.

“We kind of miscalculated how much better the track conditions were going to get at the end of the day,” said Mann, who secured a seventh Indianapolis 500 start. “By the time we realized how much better they were and how much quicker we’d have been able to run, there were too many cars in the (qualifying) line to pull our time to go. So I literally had to sit there sweating it out, and all that was going through my head was, ‘Not again, please not again, please, please not again!’^”

The other Indy 500 driver who failed to qualify in 2018 _ Hinchcliffe _ is in danger of missing the show again after crashing his primary No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in a qualifying attempt at 1:24 p.m. Hinchcliffe’s crew scrambled to prepare a backup car and had it on track within 2.5 hours. The 2016 Indy 500 pole-sitter made three late qualifying attempts in the No. 5T entry, none fast enough to get the Canadian into the top 30.

“Luckily, we’ve got a chance tomorrow,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve got a lot of faith in the crew, everybody at Arrow, everybody at Honda. They’ve done great today to rebound from a pretty bad situation. We just have to put our heads together, find a little speed on it and come out and put this thing in the show.”

Alonso made five attempts in his papaya orange McLaren entry. The last run averaged 227.224 mph but was the final speed bumped.

“It has been a difficult day, and it follows a difficult week,” said Alonso, who crashed Wednesday in practice, forcing him into a backup Dallara chassis with a new Chevy engine. “We were running quite well this morning (for the first attempt) when the conditions were not too bad. But unfortunately we picked up a rear (tire) puncture and then we decided to wait until this afternoon to get back out on track. At the end of the day, we didn’t have the pace.

“All four laps are flat-out, it’s not that you are lifting here and there, so you know, the speed that we have is quite…not enough to be in the top 30. So we will try to do something overnight, but there is not much we can find from one day to the next. But yeah, hopefully it’s enough to be in the top three positions tomorrow of the six.”

Coverage of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26 will begin at 11 a.m. (ET) on NBC.

Results of qualifying Saturday for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (21) Spencer Pigot, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.4655 (230.083 mph)

2. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.4666 (230.081)

3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6210 (229.854)

4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6924 (229.749)

5. (88) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.8779 (229.478)

6. (63) Ed Jones, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.9035 (229.440)

7. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.9658 (229.349)

8. (27) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.0217 (229.268)

9. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.3427 (228.800)

10. (98) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.3729 (228.756)

11. (25) Conor Daly, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.4688 (228.617)

12. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.5337 (228.523)

13. (7) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.5415 (228.511)

14. (30) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.6874 (228.300)

15. (33) James Davison, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.7057 (228.273)

16. (14) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.8116 (228.120)

17. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.8226 (228.104)

18. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.8256 (228.100)

19. (77) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.9009 (227.991)

20. (23) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.9535 (227.915)

21. (48) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.9584 (227.908)

22. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.9799 (227.877)

23. (19) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.0815 (227.731)

24. (4) Matheus Leist, Dallara-Chevy, 2:38.0911 (227.717)

25. (60) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.1063 (227.695)

26. (42) Jordan King, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.2402 (227.502)

27. (81) Ben Hanley, Dallara-Chevy, 2:38.2542 (227.482)

28. (26) Zach Veach, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.3523 (227.341)

29. (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.3834 (227.297)

30. (39) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Chevy, 2:38.4203 (227.244)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 19 2019
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