Marcus Ericsson wins Indy 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing

Marcus Ericsson won this Sunday’s Indy 500, capping off Ganassi’s dominant display throughout the Month of May. Ericsson held off Pato O’Ward in a two-lap shootout to win his first Indy 500 and Chip Ganassi’s first Indy 500 win in 10 years on Sunday. He had a three second lead over O’Ward with less than 10 laps to go but Ericsson’s teammate Jimmie Johnson crashed in turn two with six laps to go, bringing out the caution before IndyCar red flagged the race.

In the two-lap shootout that followed, Ericsson snaked around the track before O’Ward dived to the outside of him in turn one on the final lap but was unable to make the pass as Ericsson powered on before the race ended under caution came as Sage Karam crashed as Ericsson entered turn three, securing Ericsson the win.

Marcus Ericsson taking the checkered flag to win the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 (Photo by John Cote/Penske Entertainment)

In victory lane Ericsson said: “I knew the Huski Chocolate car was fast enough, but it was still hard. I had to do everything there at the end to keep him behind. I can’t believe it. I’m so happy.”

Marcus Ericsson celebrating in victory lane (Photo by Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment)

Polesitter and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon had controlled much of the race leading for 95 laps, and seemed set to challenge for his second Indy 500 win at the end but a speeding penalty on his final pit stop devastatingly cost him the chance. Dixon said: “It’s heartbreaking to be honest.”

This was Ericsson’s third IndyCar career win and his first oval win. it moves him from eighth to first in the points standings after the double points that was on offer. It was only the second time in history that a Swedish driver has won the Indy 500, the first being Kenny Brack in 1999.

Ericsson, nicknamed “The Sneaky Swede”, was under the radar for many but during practice, Ericsson’s car looked very strong and was hooked up to the race track. Ericsson said he was very confident with the car he had and believed he could indeed win this year’s Indy 500.

Marcus Ericsson running in the Indy 500 with Pato O’Ward (left) and Felix Rosenqvist (right) in the background (Photo by Aaron Skillman/Penske Entertainment)

His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner, ran inside the top five in the latter stages of the race and held onto his third place in the two-lap shootout splitting O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist who finished second and fourth in what was a fantastic showing by the Arrow McLaren SP drivers.

The race was tough as it was a hot race track and was windy throughout the race, making it tricky for the drivers. Turn two proved to be hazardous as usual with many cars crashing into the turn two wall after getting loose and spinning out. Three and four-wide action in the midfield on restarts was common but two wide through any turns closer to the front was rare. Out front, it was the likes of Dixon, Álex Palou, Conor Daly, O’Ward and Rosenqvist who were dictating the pace and managing their fuel consumption to set themselves up for the final stint of the race.

On the opening lap Palou took the lead away from Dixon down the back straightaway and the two Chip Ganassi drivers would swap places in the opening 10 laps in an effort to preserve fuel.

Scott Dixon leading the pack in turn one on lap one (Photo by Aaron Skillman/Penske Entertainment)

Rinus VeeKay, who arguably had one of the strongest cars in the race, was battling back and forth for second in the opening stint and came out right behind Dixon and Palou after the first round of green flag pit stops on lap 33. VeeKay had got by Dixon on lap 35 for second going into turn three but the leading ECR driver’s race would end early when on lap 38 he got loose in turn two and smashed into the wall before coming to a stop in the grass.

On the lap 47 restart as Palou and Dixon led the field back to green, Takuma Sato, Santino Ferrucci, Rosenqvist and Kanaan went four-wide down the front straightaway with Sato going right around the outside to take sixth place. Dixon took the lead again on the following lap.

Scott Dixon (left) and Álex Palou (right) racing down the front straightaway (Photo by Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment)

During the second round of pit stops on lap 69, the yellow flag came out for rookie Callum Ilott spinning out and crashing in turn two as Palou was making his way to the pits and was forced to drive down pit road despite pit road closing before he had reached the commitment line. Two laps later he had to take emergency service due to running out of fuel and would serve a penalty and go to the rear of the field.

Dixon, Daly and O’Ward would lead the field back to green on lap 78 and on lap 81, Daly, the hometown kid, would take the lead away from Dixon for a lap only for Dixon to take it back a lap later. Ericsson by this point had made his way up to fourth after starting the race in fifth.

Conor Daly running in the Indy 500 (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

Romain Grosjean was the next to fall victim to the turn two wall on lap 106, mirroring VeeKay’s race ending crash. Grosjean had been in the top 20 for the first half of the race.

On the restart O’Ward took the lead off Dixon by passing him on the outside into turn one while Ferrucci went boldly two-wide with Dixon all the way through turn one but backed out before turn two. Dixon would quickly take the lead back.

Scott Dixon (left) leading over Pato O’Ward (right) (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

The next pit stop sequence saw O’Ward jump ahead of Dixon for the lead coming out of the pits with just over 50 laps to go with Arrow McLaren SP teammate Rosenqvist, running as high as fourth in the previous stint, now behind Dixon.

On lap 152, Scott McLaughlin brought out the yellow after smacking into the turn three wall before heading uncontrollably across the track into the turn four wall, nearly colliding with Ed Carpenter in the process.

The next 10 laps saw Dixon and O’Ward duel for the lead, swapping positions several times as they tried to control the race before making their final pit stop. Dixon had pitted from the lead on lap 175 but entered the pits hot and locked up his tyres. His speeding penalty took him out of contention for the win and saw Rosenqvist go from third to what would be the lead of the race when the pit cycle was compete, with Ericsson going from fifth to third and O’Ward holding second.

Ericsson soared past O’Ward with 20 laps to go and with 18 to go, there was Swede on Swede action as Ericsson got by Rosenqvist. A lap later, he had already pulled a three second gap as he flew by the lap traffic.

Pato O’Ward (front) with Marcus Ericsson (behind) chasing him down (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

With 11 to go, Johnson made his final pit stop, officially handing over the lead to Ericsson who had a 3.4 second lead now over second place O’Ward but with six to go on fresh tyres, Johnson spun around in turn two and crashed head on into the wall, the last thing the race leader and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate wanted to see.

The race is red flagged with five to go due to Jimmie Johnson’s crash (Photo by Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment)

IndyCar red flagged the race in the interest of completing the race under racing conditions. Ericsson was not phased by the situation and in the two-lap shootout held the lead despite O’Ward’s best efforts, to win his first Indy 500.

Marcus Ericsson (front) leading Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Tony Kanaan on the restart (Photo by Paul Hurley/Penske Entertainment)

Dixon would make his way through the field after his penalty to finish 21st while Palou would recover further from his earlier pit penalty to finish 9th. Kanaan worked his way up to the top five in the latter stages and finished an impressive third. Johnson while having started 12th, gradually slipped back through the field as the race went on and was towards the back when he crashed out.

Colton Herta had a race he would want to forget, after going to a backup car on Friday after a scary crash in practice where his car got airborne and ended up upside down, the race proved to be a disaster. His car was extremely loose and on lap 54 nearly went into the wall in the short chute in turns three and four. After going a lap down on lap 104 he would shortly have to retire from the race after experiencing a throttle sensor issue.

It would be Alexander Rossi who would lead the Andretti charge finishing fifth after making three-wide moves to come up through the field from 20th.

Alexander Rossi racing in the Indy 500 (Photo by Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment)

Hélio Castroneves may have not have won his fifth Indy 500 but he did patiently work his way up through the field with teammate Simon Pagenaud to finish seventh. Juan Pablo Montoya and his Arrow McLaren SP car proved strong in the race and the two-time Indy 500 winner methodically worked his way up from 30th to finish 11th. Prior to McLaughlin’s crash, Ferrucci had aggressively got up to fifth but would have to settle for 10th.

The next race is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on June 5th starting at 3pm ET.

Full race results: 1st. Marcus Ericsson, 2nd. Pato O’Ward, 3rd. Tony Kanaan, 4th. Felix Rosenqvist, 5th. Alexander Rossi, 6th. Conor Daly, 7th. Hélio Castroneves, 8th. Simon Pagenaud, 9th. Álex Palou, 10th. Santino Ferrucci, 11th. Juan Pablo Montoya, 12th. JR Hildebrand, 13th. Josef Newgarden, 14th. Graham Rahal, 15th. Will Power, 16th. David Malukas, 17th. Kyle Kirkwood, 18th. Christian Lundgaard, 19th. Ed Carpenter, 20th. Devlin DeFrancesco, 21st. Scott Dixon, 22nd. Marco Andretti, 23rd. Sage Karam, 24th. Jack Harvey, 25th. Takuma Sato, 26th. Stefan Wilson, 27th. Dalton Kellett, 28th. Jimmie Johnson, 29th. Scott McLaughlin, 30th. Colton Herta, 31st. Romain Grosjean, 32nd. Callum Ilott, 33rd. Rinus VeeKay.

Top 10 in points standings: 1st. Marcus Ericsson (226), 2nd. Pato O’Ward (213), 3rd. Álex Palou (212), 4th. Will Power (202), 5th. Josef Newgarden (174), 6th. Scott Dixon (166), 7th. Scott McLaughlin (162), 8th. Simon Pagenaud (157), 9th. Felix Rosenqvist (154), 10th. Colton Herta (142).

Featured Image: Marcus Ericsson (left) and team owner Chip Ganassi celebrate together in victory lane (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Indy 500 Race Preview

This Sunday the IndyCar Series will compete in what many say is the biggest race on the planet, the Indianapolis 500. Thirty-three drivers are set to go racing over 240mph around the 2.5 mile oval to try to be a winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

With just nine degrees of banking in each corner and insane speeds, the track demands great respect from the drivers. One small off-line mistake or one move too late could see a driver’s race over in a flash.

The 106th running of the event will see the 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon lead the field to green after producing the fastest pole speed in Indy 500 history with a four-lap average of 234.046mph. He is accompanied by Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Álex Palou and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay on the front row, who collectively make it the fastest qualified front row in Indy 500 history.

Scott Dixon (right) will start the Indy 500 1st, Álex Palou (middle) will start 2nd, and Rinus Veekay (left) will start third (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

The drivers will race around the oval for 200 laps, being 500 miles in length, with a minimum of five pit stops. The weather forecast for the Indy 500 is for it to be sunny with a high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit making it a slick racetrack, and with light to moderate winds, making it no easy challenge for the drivers to overcome.

The green flag for the 106th running of the Indy 500 will be at 12:45pm ET. The full race day schedule is as follows.

10:30am ET – Cars to the grid

11:47am ET – Driver introductions

12:18pm ET – Indy 500 pre-race ceremonies

12:29pm ET – “Drivers to your cars”

12:38pm ET – Command to Start Engines

12:45pm ET – The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500

Hélio Castroneves, who is starting from 27th, will be the first driver in the history of the race to be going for a fifth Indy 500 win to be the winningest Indy 500 driver in history after winning the 2021 Indy 500.

There are seven Indy 500 rookies in the field including Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jimmie Johnson and Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean. Both drivers have been impressive throughout the Month of May and made last Sunday’s fast 12 qualifying session. Grosjean will start 9th and Johnson will start 12th.

Carb Day on Friday was the final practice session for the Indy 500 and just like qualifying, the Chip Ganassi Racing squad were at the top of the charts with 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan with the fastest time, followed by Marcus Ericsson in second and Scott Dixon in fourth. Dale Coyne Racing’s with RWR’s Takuma Sato, the two-time Indy 500 winner, went third fastest.

Tony Kanaan practicing on Carb Day (Photo by Matt Fraver/Penske Entertainment)

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta has had to go to a backup car after crashing in turn one and getting airborne and landing upside down before making secondary contact with the turn two wall in the session. The driver has been cleared to race and will start 25th.

With a highly competitive and diverse field, the race is set to one of the best in years. You do not want to miss this edition of the Indy 500.

Featured Image: Scott Dixon leads the field to green in the 2021 Indy 500 (Photo by Karl Zemlin/IndyCar Media)

Dixon breaks pole speed record and earns fifth Indy 500 pole

Scott Dixon set a sensational four-lap average of 234.046mph in the fast six to take his fifth Indy 500 pole, braking the Indy 500 pole speed record held by Scott Brayton’s 1996 233.718mph run. Dixon’s time was the second fastest qualifying run in Indy 500 history, only coming behind Arie Luyendyk 1996’s bump day qualifying run of 236.986mph.

Scott Dixon qualifying (Photo by Lisa Hurley/Penske Entertainment)

Dixon was the last car to go out in the fast six and had teammate Alex Palou’s four-lap average of 233.499mph to beat for the pole. Dixon not only managed a 234mph plus average on his first lap but also his second with averages of 234.437mph and 234.162. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver earned back to back poles on Sunday, and is now second for all-time Indy 500 poles, only behind Rick Mears’s six.

Talking to NBC’s Marty Snider, the 2008 Indy 500 winner said: “This is what this place is about, it’s so amazing.”

Scott Dixon celebrating with the Indy 500 pole award (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Instead of the usual fast nine qualifying format, pole day was decided by two qualifying sessions that is used during the rest of the IndyCar season, the fast 12 followed by the fast six, for the first time.

In the fast 12, Jimmie Johnson, in turn one on lap one, understeered before getting a snap of oversteer and was mere inches from hitting the wall before evasively driving away from the wall in the short shoot. Johnson’s first lap was a 229.911 but by pedalling the throttle, came back to earn a four-lap average of 231.264mph, qualifying 12th. Johnson said to NBC that he had wanted to run full throttle for the entire first lap but the “tricky conditions” and “inexperience” caught him out.

Jimmie Johnson getting into his No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on pit road (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Will Power, the sole Team Penske driver to make the fast 12, qualified 11th with a 231.534mph average but nearly hit the turn one wall twice on laps one and three. Sato qualified 10th with a consistent run of 231.670mph.

Romain Grosjean nearly smacked the turn one wall on lap two and appeared to be running light on downforce. The Indy 500 rookie managed to qualify 9th with a 231.999mph average. Talking to NBC afterwards he said “that was scary.”

The fight for making the fast six was very much on for the Arrow McLaren SP drivers of Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward. Rosenqvist’s tricky handling Chevrolet managed a 232.182mph that initially put him sixth but O’Ward went faster with a 232.705mph average. Neither would end up making the fast six as Rinus VeeKay, the last driver to go out after setting the quickest four-lap average on Saturday, would go second overall after setting a four-lap average of 233.249mph including a first lap of 234.099mph.

Rinus VeeKay qualifying (Photo by Aaron Skillman/Penske Entertainment)

The top six from the fast 12 would be made up of four Chip Ganassi Racing and two Ed Carpenter Racing cars. All of their times in the fast 12 had been in the 233mph plus average range. Tony Kanaan on a very consistent run did a 233.022mph average putting him sixth. Indiana native Ed Carpenter went fifth with a 233.073mph four-lap average including a first lap of 234.244.

Marcus Ericsson went fourth with a 233.166mph four lap average, Palou went third with a smooth run of 233.347mph and Dixon to nobody’s surprise went to the top with a 233.510mph four-lap average in what had been a very consistent run.

The fast six qualifying session was a battle between the Chip Ganassi Racing Honda’s of Dixon, Palou, Ericsson and Kanaan, and the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet’s of VeeKay and Carpenter.

Despite the cooling conditions, and the increase in cloud cover, both Ericsson and Kanaan would go slower on their fast six runs, only managing a 232.764mph and a 232.372mph four-lap average respectively, qualifying fifth and sixth although Ericsson did have a super smooth run, making him a car to watch out for in Sunday’s race.

Carpenter would be incredibly consistent compared with his fast 12 time by completing a four-lap average of 233.080mph, putting him fourth overall.

Ed Carpenter qualifying (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

The top three from the fast six would be VeeKay, Palou and Dixon. VeeKay was racing to be the youngest Indy 500 pole sitter in history but would have to settle with a third best average of 233.385mph. Palou went out and did a 233.499mph four-lap average including a first lap of 234.048mph, only to get beaten by Dixon’s recording breaking 234.046mph four-lap average.

From left to right: Álex Palou, Jimmie Johnson, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi, Tony Kanaan and Marcus Ericsson (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Dixon, Palou and VeeKay will make up the front row for this weekend’s Indy 500, making it the fastest front row in Indy 500 history.

The next on track session for the IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be on Friday for Carb Day and the Pit Stop Competition, ahead of Sunday’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The full qualifying results are as follows.

Fast 12: 1st Scott Dixon (233.510), 2nd Rinus VeeKay (233.429), 3rd Álex Palou (233.347), 4th Marcus Ericsson (233.166), 5th Ed Carpenter (233.073), 6th Tony Kanaan (233.022), 7th Pato O’Ward (232.705), 8th Felix Rosenqvist (232.182), 9th Romain Grosjean (231.999), 10th Takuma Sato (231.670), 11th Will Power (231.534), 12th Jimmie Johnson.

Fast six: 1st Scott Dixon (234.046), 2nd Álex Palou (233.499), 3rd Rinus VeeKay (233.385), 4th Ed Carpenter (233.080), 5th Marcus Ericsson (232.764), 6th Tony Kanaan (232.372).

Featured Image: Scott Dixon celebrates capturing his fifth Indy 500 pole and breaking the record for the fastest pole speed in Indy 500 history (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Indy 500 qualifying day one: VeeKay tops chart, Sato wall slaps his way into fast 12

Rinus VeeKay set the third fastest qualifying run in Indy 500 history with a 233.655mph average in his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet at the start of the day going fastest, while Takuma Sato, after having his time deleted for track interference with Marco Andretti, saw him whack the turn two wall but stayed in the throttle and went 12th fastest, securing the final spot for Sunday’s fast 12 qualifying session.

While there would be no bump day as part of this year’s Indy 500, due to only having 33 entries for the 106th running of the Indy 500, day one of qualifying set positions 13 to 33 and decided who would make Sunday’s fast 12 and have a chance at making the fast six and the Indy 500 pole. Multiple attempts to qualify were cut short due to storms with drivers Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden taking to lane one in an attempt to make the fast 12 in time but failed to do so.

A weather advisory warning during the session (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay was the second car to go out for his first qualifying run in favourable conditions as the track was cool and the air thin. He set a blistering first lap of his four-lap qualifying run with a 234.7mph average. Talking to NBC, VeeKay said the car was “very comfortable to drive.”

Sato had his first lap deleted that had put him in the fast 12, after failing to stay off the racing line on his cooldown lap as Marco Andretti came round to begin his run. On the second attempt on lap two, the two-time Indy 500 winner banged square on into the turn two wall but kept his foot in the throttle, barely losing any speed going 12th fastest with a 231.708mph average, knocking out rookie David Malukas from the fast 12. Sato said to NBC: “It’s qualifying, you just keep going.”

Takuma Sato on pit road (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

The Arrow McLaren SP’s of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist went second and third fastest, after going out first and fourth in the session.

The Chip Ganassi Racing camp showed impressive speed all around with all five cars making the fast 12. Álex Palou went fourth fastest with a 232.774mph average, despite increasing track temperatures. 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan went fifth fastest while four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson went sixth fastest with a 232.398mph average in his first ever Indy 500 qualifying session, continuing on from his IndyCar oval success at Texas Motor Speedway. Marcus Ericsson with a track temperature of 107 degrees, 21 degrees hotter than VeeKay’s qualifying run, still managed to go eighth fastest while 2021 pole winner Scott Dixon went 10th fastest.

Jimmie Johnson on pit road (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

Three-time Indy 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter went seventh fastest despite the hotter track temperature but was forced to lift going into turn three on his final lap as he reached 241mph. Romain Grosjean, after having a difficult would be the surprise lone Andretti Autosport driver to make the fast 12 going ninth fastest in his first ever Indy 500 qualifying run, while 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power would be the only Team Penske driver to make the fast 12, going 11th fastest after using every inch of the track to do so.

Romain Grosjean on pit road (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

Overall though, it would prove to be not the best of days for Andretti Autosport and Team Penske. Colton Herta’s engine shut off on his first qualifying run, forcing the team to do a lengthy engine change before sending him back out later in the day where he only managed to qualify 25th. Alexander Rossi was not happy with his race car, describing it to NBC as “horrible”, and qualified 20th.  Marco Andretti qualified 23rd and rookie Devlin DeFrancesco qualified 24th.

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin withdrew his 15th qualifying position to take lane one for a second attempt but with less favourable conditions, the gamble did not pay off and instead qualified 26th. Josef Newgarden was lucky to keep his 14th qualifying position after lightning brought out the yellow flag on his second qualifying run after also using lane one, ending the session early. As a result, he was able to retain his position.

Scott McLaughlin going out for his second qualifying run (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, in contrast to his Arrow McLaren SP teammates, had a rough qualifying session. Montoya’s car failed pre-qualifying inspection and had to forfeit his first qualifying run. When he did attempt to qualify, he was not on pace saying on the radio the car was “horrible” and “hard to drive”, only qualifying 30th.

Four-time Indy 500 winner Hélio Castroneves, after qualifying eighth last year with Meyer Shank Racing before going on to win the Indy 500, could only manage 27th.

Stefan Wilson was unable to get out to qualify due to engine trouble and consequently will start last for next weekend’s Indy 500.

The full qualifying results are as follows.

Drivers to progress to fast 12: 1st Rinus VeeKay, 2nd Pato O’Ward, 3rd Felix Rosenqvist, 4th Álex Palou, 5th Tony Kanaan, 6th Jimmie Johnson, 7th Ed Carpenter, 8th Marcus Ericsson, 9th Romain Grosjean, 10th Scott Dixon, 11th Will Power, 12th Takuma Sato.

13th to 33rd: 13th David Malukas, 14th Josef Newgarden, 15th Santino Ferrucci, 16th Simon Pagenaud, 17th JR Hildebrand, 18th Conor Daly, 19th Callum Ilott, 20th Alexander Rossi, 21st Graham Rahal, 22nd Sage Karam, 23rd Marco Andretti, 24th Devlin DeFrancesco, 25th Colton Herta, 26th Scott McLaughlin, 27th Hélio Castroneves, 28th Kyle Kirkwood, 29th Dalton Kellett, 30th Juan Pablo Montoya, 31st Christian Lundgaard, 32nd Jack Harvey, 33rd Stefan Wilson.

Featured Image: Rinus VeeKay in his ECR Bitcoin Chevrolet (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

2022 IndyCar Season Preview: The Year of the Rookies

This week, the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship gets underway in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 2022 roster of drivers includes no less than six rookies, and 20 veteran full-time drivers in total, making it the largest full-time field of competitors in IndyCar for a decade.

IndyCar never fails to disappoint, with a diverse array of tracks from across the United States and drivers from all over the world, to a traditional points based system where all positions count, oh and not to mention it has one of the most welcoming fanbases you’ll find in motorsports; there’s every reason to watch IndyCar this season whether you’re a veteran or rookie yourself. Let’s get you up to speed with what’s new for IndyCar in 2022.

Continue reading “2022 IndyCar Season Preview: The Year of the Rookies”

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing: The Indianapolis 500 Preview

It’s here. The ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is just around the corner as the eyes of the world descend on Indianapolis. A race that is etched into motorsport folklore with unbridled, full-throttle, commitment, and speed. We are, of course, talking about the Indy 500!

May is an incredible month of racing with the Monaco GP on May 23 before Indy 500 on May 30, although the latter is more like a two-week event as practice and qualifying start the week before the intense 500-mile, 200-lap race.

In fact, qualifying is set to take place across both Saturday and Sunday, beginning with the general shootout with the ‘Fast Six’ on the final day.

We also return to some form of normality, with the Indy 500 returning to its rightful place at the end of May – following last year’s postponed event that took place in the middle of August. Unlike last year, we will also have spectators with 135,000 in attendance, a whopping 40% capacity!

DRIVERS! DRIVERS EVERYWHERE!

This season truly has been one to remember. The 2021 campaign has had five race winners in five races with three of those being first-time winners in Alex Palou, Patricio O’Ward, and Rinus VeeKay.

Current championship leader Scott Dixon and Colton Herta won the other two races and the six-time champion will indeed be pushing for his second Indy 500 win having last achieved it in 2008.

The last seven winners are all present this year including Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Juan Pablo Montoya, and defending 500′ winner Takuma Sato. Both Sato and Montoya head into this race seeking an incredible third win which would put them tied fourth on the all-time winners list alongside the likes of Bobby Unser and Dario Franchetti.

Three-time winner Helio Castroneves also returns to the Brickyard. A win would put him tied first on the all-time list alongside A.J.Foyt, Al Unser Jr, and Rick Mears.

While the veterans of the sport all bring swathes of experience to the event, it’s the younger drivers who will certainly share the spotlight.

Rinus VeeKay won last time out at the IMS in a spectacular display of racecraft, cutting his way through the field to beat pole-sitter, Romain Grosjean, to the chequered flag. Last year, the Dutchman qualified inside the ‘Fast Six’ on his first attempt at the Brickyard, setting one of the fastest speeds ever seen at the 500′ in the process.

Scott Dixon followed by Alex Palou. 500 Practice. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Alongside him in last year’s Fast Six’ was Alex Palou, who likely caught the attention of his current outfit Chip Ganassi with his performance that weekend. Heading into this weekend second in the championship, Palou has an incredible opportunity to capitalise on the double points on offer.

Graham Rahal was one of the fastest in the pre-season test at the Brickyard and showed a similar pace in this week’s practice. The American driver has shown some incredible pace this year putting in two top-five finishes at the double-header in Texas.

There really are contenders everywhere you look. With Patricio O’Ward. Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Conor Daly, and Scott McLaughlin also looking incredibly sharp coming into qualifying.

FRESH FACES

As ever, we welcome a host of fresh faces to the 500′. Among these are rookies Pietro Fittipaldi and RC Enerson and veterans Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Santino Ferucci, Stefan Wilson, Ed Carpenter, and JR Hildebrand.

Marco Andretti returns with Andretti. He was last year’s pole-sitter and will be looking to repeat that feat this weekend.

Simona De Silvestro. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Simona De Silvestro also makes her Indy 500 comeback with the all-female Paretta Autosport outfit. This marks De Silvestro’s first run since the 2015 edition of the race.  The Swiss driver has made hints that she could make further IndyCar outings with Paretta in the future.

Both Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson will not be taking part this weekend with both set to return at the Detriot GP.

HONDA VS CHEVY?

So far in practice, there doesn’t seem to be an overall advantage in what is set to be an incredibly competitive battle. Will Power with Penske Chevrolet topped Tuesday practice while Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda topped Wednesday.

Honda, and Chevy have three wins apiece in six attempts. While the only oval comparison we can make this year at Texas was slightly skewed due to qualifying being canceled with the championship standings used to set the grid for the race. Both races were one by an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi Honda.

This race truly could be anyones for the taking.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS.

Thursday, May 20
5-11pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Friday, May 21
5-11:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Saturday, May 22
6-7:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Qualifying

Sunday, May 23
6-7.30pm (BST): Last Chance Qualifying
7.30-9.30pm (BST): Fast Nine Qualifying

Friday, May 28                                                                                                                                       3-5:00pm (BST): Final indy 500 Practice

Sunday, May 30                                                                                                                      4:30/4:45 (BST): Indy 500 Race Start

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rinus VeeKay: “We are ready for the 500”

Rinus VeeKay image courtesy of IndyCar

The first time I took notice of this young Dutchman, he was leading the F3 Asian Winter Series competing with the likes of Williams test driver Dan Ticktum and F3 heavy-hitters David Schumacher and Ye Yifea. I didn’t know much about him at the time, but I was mightily impressed with his performances ultimately dominating the championship twenty nine points ahead of his nearest rival.

Now, he is starting fourth in the Indianapolis 500, the highest placed rookie.

It has been a whirlwind twelve months for Rinus VeeKay to say the least, a name he adopted after coming to compete in the US, his real name: Rinus Van Kalmthout. Since his incredible performance in the Indy Lights series he has been catapulted into motorsport stardom with the Ed Carpenter Racing team for the NTT IndyCar series for the 2020 season.

For the Netherlands, it is a seismic moment. The first Dutch driver in top tier American Open wheel racing since Robert Doornbos in 2009. Doornbos and only four other Dutchman have ever raced in IndyCar including two time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyundyk Sr, his son Arie Luyundyk Jr, Cornelius Euser and Jan Lammers.

Having waited so long for another star in the IndyCar series, they were treated to a miraculous sight last Sunday, seeing Rinus blasting through turn one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway clocking in at just over 240mph. One of the fastest unofficial speeds ever recorded at the Indy 500.

The previous day he knocked many big names out of the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout, including the likes of Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Fernando Alonso to name but a few. This is no mean feat. However, rather than let the pressure get to him, he put in a fantastic four-lap average (230.704mph) during the ‘Fast Nine’ to start on the fourth row alongside Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchliffe.

I was fortunate to sit down with Rinus on Wednesday 19th August, four days before he is due to take the starting grid in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in the World’. The aim: to get an insight into the nineteen-year-old Dutchman, to reflect on his fantastic performance so far.

Adam (Q):

Hi Rinus! How are you feeling? Are you OK?

Rinus VeeKay (R):

Yeah, I’m feeling great. It’s been a crazy few days, but I’m very happy with the result and it’s been a crazy weekend, but it’s also been the best weekend.

 Q:

So Rinus, first of all, congratulations on such a magnificent performance at your first Indy 500. Through to the ‘Fast Nine’, starting fourth, the highest placed rookie. That is the highest starting position for a Dutchman in 21 years since the 1999 Indy 500, which was your mentor, Arie Luyendyk, who started on pole that day.

That must be something you are immensely proud of. How do you reflect on such a fantastic debut performance?

R:

Yeah, I’m really proud of it. Of course, I did not really expect it. Of course, I knew we had a good car, but the Hondas were looking strong and I was really happy to make the ‘Fast Nine’. But then, yeah, having such a good qualifying run; that almost front row was possible was amazing.

Q:

Absolutely and you’re the only Chevrolet powered car through to the ‘Fast Nine’, which is incredible as well. Many have commented on the lack of speed by Chevy and that you guys were running a low downforce set up in order to negate the power of the Hondas. However, you hit 240 miles an hour going through into turn one.

My question has two parts here. One, what was it like running at such an incredible speed? Have you experienced anything like that ever in your career?

And secondly, would you be running a similar low downforce set up during the race? And what can you expect to get out of the race with that?

R:

Well, it was amazing touching 240 miles per hour, that’s kind of a dream come true. It’s amazing speed, of course, I had a bit of a tailwind. It was cool, turning in to turn one staying flat to 240 miles an hour. Never experienced that before, but this definitely is my land speed record.

For the race, you need more downforce to run in traffic in the race, and the tyres will not last if we keep it on that low downforce. So yeah, we will go for more downforce on a kind of race trim that everyone will be on. And yeah, we have a really strong race car. I know that. And we are ready for the 500.

Q:

Fantastic. You seem to have had quite a lot of success at the Motor Speedway. You came third here at the Freedom 100 in Indy Lights and you seem to done well at the road course in both Indy lights and IndyCar. What is there about the Motor Speedway you find so special?

R:

It’s super special, it’s like the racing mecca. The feeling driving here, if you just drive through the gates, it’s just like heaven.

It’s amazing and I really enjoy driving here. Of course, you need a bit of luck to be successful, but I love the speedway and of course, also the IMS road course has been amazing this year with my highest IndyCar finish so far.

Q:

Some of our readers may be hearing about you for the first time, but they will be eager to learn a little bit about your amazing journey into IndyCar. So, you know, I’ve got a list here of some of your accolades.

  • Second in US F2000 National Championship (2017),
  • Second in the BOSS GP series (2017),
  • Third in  the MRF Challenge Formula (2017),
  • First in the Pro Mazda Championship (2018),
  • First in the F3 Asian Winter Series (2019),
  • Second  in the Indy Lights Series (2019).

Some may be wanting to know why you chose to go round the US motorsport route rather than the European circuit and follow people such as Max Verstappen going to Formula One.

What was it that drew you to America? And I have heard that there are some perceptions that it’s more down to talent in the US. Is that a fair assumption?

R:

Yes, that’s quite fair to say. The Road to Indy is known for their scholarship program and I won the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship and because of that I had the funding to go to Indy Lights. Then it just all happened from there on. So actually that win in 2018, made possible, by The Road to Indy, just made it possible for me to drive in my car eventually.

it’s been tough to go this way. It’s not always been easy but it’s been a great few years and to make it to IndyCar in this rapid way is great.

 Q:

One question I had from one of our contributors was about your time in the BOSS GP Open series. He wanted to ask. It’s one of the more lesser known categories, one could say, but it hosts so many historical sports cars. It sounds like such an amazing series to be a part of. Did you learn anything in particular in your time in that series? And what benefits did you find in doing it?

R:

Yeah, my goal to do that was, I was 16 years old, when I did that. I did a few races there I didn’t do the full season. But to get experience at that young age with, well, I had 680 horsepower. Wow. That’s something very educational. And it’s something important to master when you’re younger. And I think that’s really helped me getting used to high power, high breaks, high downforce when I was only 16 years old.

Q:

Fantastic. Do the likes of people like Max Verstappen, Robin Frinjs in Formula E, Nick de Vries who is F2 Champion, and of course yourself. Does that give you hope that motorsport in the Netherlands is on the rise? It seems like Dutch motorsport is in a really good place right now.

R:

Yeah, it really is. We have some great drivers. Robin Frinjs who is a great driver in DTM and Formula E. Nyck De Vries who is a great driver in Formula E. Max Verstappen of course and then on the other side of the ocean, it’s me in IndyCar. It’s great to have so many drivers in the top categories of open wheel racing, and it’s just great to be part of it.

Q:


It’s like you said, you don’t get many Dutchmen in IndyCar. What is it like trying to get the attention of motorsport fans from the Netherlands to watch you in IndyCar? Do you think that you have a lot of attention right now from the Netherlands?

R:

Yeah, the attention is really getting better and better. Of course, it’s been a little tough because everyone was super ‘Formula One minded’. Now they’ve seen my qualifying performance and of course now with the internet, Twitter, everything, it rolls like a snowball. Everyone starts to get really excited. I think most of the country is going to watch the 500 next weekend, so it’s going to be really cool. I think especially the attention towards IndyCar is really on the rise now.

Q:

It certainly has been with my family we’ve been sat around the whole sofa watching it for the past few weeks. So you’ve provided some fantastic entertainment, especially during lockdown.

In the lower categories, you had a competitive rivalry with the likes of fellow rookie Oliver Askew. You two alongside Alex Palou and Dalton and Pato will be going for the Rookie of the Year title on Sunday. Do those sorts of things motivate you as a driver? And will competing well against the likes of Oliver be an extra bit of motivation for you come the race on Sunday?

R:

I’ve had a long rivalry with Oliver. He’s a great driver and he’s always been a benchmark whenever you go to the track. We have a lot of quick drivers in IndyCar now so Oliver is a quick rookie but also Alex, Patricio, Dalton Kellet, they are super quick here. We’ve got some really strong rookies this year and it feels good to be kind of the best rookie and so that gives me a huge amount of confidence.

Q:

How would you rate your IndyCar season so far? You’ve had a few unfortunate accidents here and there but on the whole your performances have been really positive and certainly the qualifying here at Indy 500 surely should give you confidence for the rest of the full IndyCar season. So how would you reflect on the season so far and your hopes for the future? 

R:

Yeah it’s been a weird season. Of course with COVID to start off with and then my first race at Texas was very immature, very rookie, but I really learned from that. It was one of my biggest lessons in my career. And then from then on, as a driver I made huge steps.

Of course after that we had Indy IMS Road Course where I had my first top five finish. That was great with a great strategy. And then at Road America we struggled a little, I also had some engine issues in the race so that was unfortunate. And in Iowa we were on our way possibly to a victory in race 1 until, well you know what happened with Colton. That was very unfortunate. In race 2 we had some pit lane issues so it’s not been the luckiest year. But, well let’s hope we can make a turnaround from here.

 Q:

For all your prospective fans out there as I am sure after this weekend you will have many. What can we expect from you come this Sunday?

R:

I’m gonna just give it my all. I know we have a great race car. Of course a lot of the race is about strategy, so that will be important, a lot of thinking. But I think we can make the people at home, make then sit at the top of their seats and enjoy the race. I really want to make sure that this year, when there are no fans, they still really enjoy it.

Q:

And that’s another good point that there will be no fans this year at the 500. Does that feel a little bit strange do you think that’s going to be weird come Sunday?

R:

It feels a little strange yeah. You are so used to having so many fans here at Indy. The fans make the event what it is and you miss that. You can feel that the atmosphere is not like that. Of course, it’s still the 500, you still have the speed and the sensation but yeah the fans are a gift when they are here.

Q:

I mean I’m sure that even though they are not going to be there there’s going to be thousands more at home tuning in watching at home live so don’t worry there’s going to be lots of people supporting you back at home.

I think that’s pretty much all we have time for that’s the fifteen minutes. So thank you so much Rinus it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you for giving up some of your time to speak to us. We wish you so much luck for the race on Sunday and we really hope you have a good turnout and a good result come this Sunday?.

R:

Thank you very much. I’ll make sure everyone will enjoy the race, and me too and hopefully drink the bottle of milk at the end!

 

 

Indianapolis 500 U-turn, closes doors to fans

The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place without fans for the first time in its history. This will arguably be the biggest impact “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has seen since the series of cancellations between 1942 and 1945 during America’s intervention in World War Two.

The US has been significantly effected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and while federal laws try their best to limit the spread of the disease, state laws can take matters into their own hands. It seems this is what has happened.

A few weeks ago, it had been reported that the 500 was to happen with spectator capacity capped at 50%. The speedway then lowered that number to 25%, releasing an 88-page document detailing the safety procedures that were to be implemented.

The seating capacity of the speedway holds upward of 250,000 people. Given this, the upward trajectory of fans would have been close to 62,500 people, not including staff, teams, media and drivers.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday reported an additional 836 cases and 14 deaths from Coronavirus, bringing the state’s totals to 69,255 cases and 2,794 deaths.

Indiana’s seven-day moving average positivity rate was 7.3% compared to earlier averages of 5%. Therefore, discussions were held between local and state governments and the speedway took the decision to remove the prospect of fans in the speedway so as to mitigate the risk of transmission.

Chris Owens / IndyCar Media

Roger Penske, owner of the circuit, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the U-turn was:

“The toughest business decision I’ve ever made in my life.” “We didn’t buy the Speedway for one year, we bought it for generations to come, and it’s important to our reputation to do the right thing,”

This will be financially devastating, as the circuit makes most of its revenue from the 500 and will inevitably come under economic pressure as a consequence.

Penske continued by saying: “We need to be safe and smart about this, obviously we want full attendance, but we don’t want to jeopardize the health and safety of our fans and the community. We also don’t want to jeopardize the ability to hold a successful race.”

It was clear how the situation would unfold when IU Health, the state’s largest health care system and a partner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, publicly criticised the attendance of fans at the raceway.

“Until we sustain better control of this virus and its spread,” IU iterated, “we strongly encourage IMS to consider an alternative to running the Indy 500 with fans in August.”

This follows a wave of schedule alterations, including the cancellation of Portland, Laguna Seca and the postponement of the Mid-Ohio race scheduled for the weekend of the 8th August, with many races including at Road America and Iowa already holding races with fans in attendance, but at a reduced capacity.

Tim Holle / IndyCar MediaThe 500 is still scheduled to take place from Memorial weekend to August 23rd.

Feature image courtesy of Joe Skibinksi / IndyCar Media

Indy 500 Report: Pagenaud completes May treble with first 500 win

Simon Pagenaud stunned the field to win his first Indy 500, having already taken pole for the race and the Indianapolis GP win. He becomes the first driver to ever do that sweep of May, after Will Power came close last year. Pagenaud held off 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi in a thrilling duel during the last ten laps.

The Frenchman started from pole and dominated the race in a way that we are just not used to seeing at the Indy 500. He led 116 laps, nearly 100 more than anyone else, though it was not all plain sailing. All the Chevrolets were struggling with fuel mileage and none more so than Pagenaud, who had the added disadvantage of being out front in clean air with no one to work with.

If it wasn’t for the fourth and final caution which turned into a red flag, the end of the race could’ve been a very different story fuel-wise. If and buts aside, Pagenaud ran a near faultless race to win his first Indy 500 and Penske’s 18th, writing himself into the history books and taking the championship lead with it. Perhaps his only mistake of the day was stopping his car on the yard of bricks after the race, rather than the more traditional Victory Circle… but he didn’t seem to mind!

Simon Pagenaud celebrates victory with partner Hayley and dog Norman. Credit: Doug Mathews/IndyCar

Chasing Pagenaud all the way to the flag was Rossi, who was going after his second 500 win. Early on in the race the #27 had a small problem with the fuel in his pit stop but it only cost him a second or two, so no one thought much of it at the time. However, when it came to the penultimate stops, that problem became something more major with Rossi losing a significant amount of time, making him a very angry driver.

Once the race was restarted after the third caution, Rossi was on a mission passing whoever he liked, wherever he liked and soon caught up to the leaders. He pushed Pagenaud very hard in the final laps with the leading driver always heavily defending the inside line but, despite Rossi’s best efforts, Pagenaud squeezed pass on Lap 199 and held onto the lead for long enough to cross the line victorious. He was visibly disappointed by the result saying, “nothing else matters here but winning, today will suck for a while.”.

Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi. Credit: Tim Holle/IndyCar

In amongst all that drama, the third-place finisher was nearly forgotten, but 2017 Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato gave the other two a run for their money in the final laps, only dropping back slightly at the very end. The #30 briefly led at two points during the race, though never really had the pace of fellow Honda-runner Rossi. Still, a more than respectable result moves him up to fourth in the championship.

Sebastien Bourdais was one driver who had been comfortably within the lead group until his race came, quite literally, crashing down on Lap 176 when he came together with Graham Rahal and caused the biggest wreck of the day. In taking each other out, the pair created a secondary wreck where drivers behind crashed while reacting to what was going on ahead. Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach’s races were ended while Charlie Kimball, Sage Karam and Scott Dixon all managed to carry on.

Graham Rahal’s car is towed away after the wreck. Credit: Walt Kuhn/IndyCar

There were some remarkable near misses to come out of that wreck with rookie Ferrucci coming off best. The #19 dived onto the grass to avoid his teammate Bourdais and the others in the wreck and, where many drivers would’ve backed off, Ferrucci floored it and gained a handful of places. He eventually finished as top rookie in seventh-place, two places better than Robert Wickens managed in his debut Indy 500 last year.

Hinchcliffe also avoided disaster in that Lap 176 wreck, though that wasn’t the only time he avoided something that could’ve been a whole lot worse. After missing out on the race last year, Hinchcliffe’s nightmare nearly repeated itself again this year however, he scrapped into the race by qualifying 32nd. From there, he could only go forwards, threading the needle through that wreck and finishing in a very respectable 11th place.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Marcus Ericsson was less fortunate. He had been running as best rookie until he lost control on pit entry on Lap 138, causing a caution and putting himself two laps down. This year was always going to be a learning experience for the ex-F1 driver, and he proved just that.

That rounds out what was an action-packed Indy 500 with more going on than could ever possibly be mentioning all at once! IndyCar are back in action in just a few days for the Duel in Detroit double-header so watch out for that.

Full Race Results:

  1. Simon Pagenaud
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Takuma Sato
  4. Josef Newgarden
  5. Will Power
  6. Ed Carpenter
  7. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  9. Tony Kanaan
  10. Conor Daly
  11. James Hinchcliffe
  12. James Davison
  13. Ed Jones
  14. Spencer Pigot
  15. Matheus Leist
  16. Pippa Mann
  17. Scott Dixon
  18. Helio Castroneves
  19. Sage Karam
  20. JR Hildebrand
  21. Jack Harvey
  22. Oriol Servia
  23. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  24. Jordan King (R)
  25. Charlie Kimball
  26. Marco Andretti

Non-finishers:

  1. Graham Rahal
  2. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  3. Zach Veach
  4. Sebastien Bourdais
  5. Kyle Kaiser (R)
  6. Ben Hanley (R)
  7. Colton Herta (R)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Simon Pagenaud
  2. Josef Newgarden
  3. Alexander Rossi
  4. Takuma Sato
  5. Scott Dixon

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Indy 500 Drama: Alonso Fails To Qualify

In pursuit of the Triple Crown (Monaco GP, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500) Fernando Alonso and McLaren returned to American soil for the Indianapolis 500.

Saturday was the day where the top 30 qualifying took place, with the fast nine to qualify again on Sunday for pole position and the six drivers out of the top 30 would also qualify again on Sunday, but with a higher stake.

After the two-time F1 World Champion did not make the top 30 (he ended up in 31st) it was time for ‘Bump Day’, where the last six drivers fight for the last three positions on the starting grid. The three slowest would pack up and go home. James Hinchcliffe, Sage Karam, Fernando Alonso, Max Chilton, Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Kaiser were all in the danger zone.

First to put a time on the table was James Hinchcliffe. With an average of 227.543 MPH, he was almost guaranteed of a spot on the grid for next week’s race, having missed out on the race last year. Next in line was Max Chilton, and just like Alonso, with a Carlin car. His pace was way off, with a mere 226.192 MPH meaning his chances would be very slim to qualify.

The third driver to make his run was Alonso. His first lap looked promising for a good result, and he ended up with an average of 227.353 MPH, putting him in (at that moment) second place.

Zak Brown and Fernando Alonso watch and wait after their qualifying attempt. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

With three drivers to go, it would take just two of them to be faster than Alonso for the Spaniard not to qualify for the legendary race. The fact that Fernando was signing some autographs rather than watching the timings showed everything about his nerves. He just didn’t want to look, knowing full well that it would be very close.

Sage Karam surprised with a pretty quick average of 227.740 MPH, putting him on the top of the table. He pushed Alonso back to third place, just enough to qualify. But with two drivers left, tensions were rising.

Patricio O’Ward, the new Red Bull F1 junior, also drove with a Carlin built car, which showed; an average of 227.092 MPH put him in fourth, meaning he was done for this year. The last one who could attempt to qualify was Kaiser.

His first lap was the same as Alonso, but his second and third lap were slightly quicker than the Spaniard’s. With only one lap to go, Alonso once again went to sign some items of fans, too afraid of looking at the timings.

In a very dramatic manner, Kaiser – with his very small Juncos Racing team – beat the great (but new) McLaren Indy team to the last spot on the grid: 227.372 MPH. Just 0.019MPH quicker than Fernando.

Juncos Racing celebrate qualifying for the Indy 500, despite numerous setbacks. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

In a reaction on social media, Alonso said: “A difficult week, no doubts. We tried our best, even today with a completely different set-up and approach, 4 laps flat on the throttle but we were not fast enough. It’s never easy to drive around here at 227mph+, and want more speed… We tried our best and we’ve been brave at times, but there were people doing a better job than us. Success or disappointments only come if you accept big challenges. We accepted.”

Gil de Ferran, McLaren sporting director, apologized to Alonso, the team and fans. “This has been a very emotional and difficult experience, I think, not only for me but for the whole team”, he said. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize and thank the fans, not only here in the U.S. but globally, who have been following our progress.  So you know, this is in my 35 years of racing – actually a few more – the most painful experience I’ve ever had.”

Even though Alonso will not be there, the show still goes on. The only Carlin car to qualify for the Indy 500 was Charlie Kimball in 20th. Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud took pole and got a cheque of $100,000, with Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot lining up next to him. There will still be a fantastic race and all fans of motorsport should definitely watch it.

Simon Pagenaud accepts his pole award for his first ever Indy 500 pole. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

(Featured Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher/IndyCar)

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