Pagenaud claims Indy 500 pole, Alonso and McLaren bumped from the field

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Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud has claimed pole position for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. After an extensive rain delay, both the Fast Nine and Last-Row shootouts took place. Prior to the pole position shoot-out, Fernando Alonso would shockingly be eliminated from the field and will join Carlin‘s Patricio O’Ward and Max Chilton on the sidelines for the rest of the month of May.

As expected after day one of qualifying yesterday, the weather played a role on pole day for the Indianapolis 500. A rain delay would push back both the Fast Nine and Last-Row shootout sessions by almost five hours, but a break in the rain allowed for both sessions to take place.

Cooler track conditions greeted both sets of drivers that took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This, coupled with the much slower racing surface after earlier rain, meant that conditions were wildly different from yesterday’s running; providing the opportunity for a huge mix-up in what many may have expected.

Over the course of the Fast Nine shootout for pole position, Team Penske looked to have suffered from the changing conditions. Both Will Power and Josef Newgarden ran slower than expected, but Simon Pagenaud would not replicate his team-mates’ performances. He laid down the most consistent four-lap run of the entire event so far, taking provisional pole with a run of 229.992-mph.

Simon had to wait for two more drivers to take to the track, including yesterday’s pace-setter Spencer Pigot, but no one could match the consistency of his runs. In the end, Pagenaud’s run would be good enough to score a sensational pole position for the 2019 Indianapolis 500; his first pole position for the biggest race of the NTT IndyCar Series.

The Frenchman’s win in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis a week prior seems to have sparked a fantastic return to form for Simon, who suffered criticism from many during an extensive winless streak during the last year and a half. In next Sunday’s Indy 500, he will be looking to replicate his team-mate Will Power’s performance last year, when he won on the road course and the speedway back-to-back.

Credit: Matt Fraver / Courtesy of IndyCar

Starting in second-place next Sunday will be Ed Carpenter, who narrowly missed out on claiming his fourth pole position for the famous race. Carpenter would lay down a run of 229.889-mph, missing out on pole position by just seven-hundredths of a second across the four qualifying laps.

Yesterday’s pacesetter, Spencer Pigot, could not replicate his run to take what would have been his first IndyCar pole position. He would set the third-fastest run, putting him just ahead of fourth-placed qualifier and team-mate, Ed Jones. Carpenter, Pigot and Jones’ results mean that all three Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets will start inside the top four, a sensational effort from the team who always show so much speed at Indianapolis. Now, the team need to convert pole position into a race win, a feat that they have yet to accomplish.

The top four positions on the grid are all taken up by Chevrolet drivers. The highest-placed Honda driver was Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta, who put in a great run to take fifth-place on the grid. He will also start the race as the best-placed rookie in the field.

Sixth on the grid will be the defending Indy 500 race winner, Will Power, who simply did not appear to have the pace to contend for pole with the vastly different track conditions. Starting in seventh place will be Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais, with Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi completing the fastest nine drivers who made it through to the pole position shoot-out.

Positions ten down to thirty were set and locked-in during yesterday’s first day of qualifying. However, the final three spots on the thirty-three car field were still up for sale when track-running got underway today. The Last-Row shootout took place just prior to the pole position shootout and it arguably provided even more drama.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Entering the session, Fernando Alonso, James HinchcliffeSage KaramPatricio O’Ward, Max Chilton and Kyle Kaiser all had a chance of taking one of the three final spots in the field, with three drivers set to miss out on qualifying for the race.

Sage Karam had endured a difficult few days in the run-up to the Last-Row shootout. A potential lack of confidence in his #24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet prompted the team to put his team-mate in the car during practice to confirm that everything was okay. He again lacked speed yesterday and found himself in the Last-Row shootout. With the pressure on, Karam found the speed that he needed. He would top the Last-Row shootout with a run of 227.740-mph to secure himself a spot in the race, with the American left visibly emotional after the session.

Also punching his ticket into next Sunday’s race was Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s, James Hinchcliffe. After crashing yesterday and being forced into a back-up car, the team would throw parts from their other cars onto Hinchcliffe’s #5 Chevrolet for the Last-Row shootout. Thankfully for James, he would be spared the horror of failing to qualify for the second year in a row, setting the second-fastest run of the shootout with an average speed of 227.543-mph.

Throughout the month of May so far, many fans from across the world have been focusing on McLaren Racing’s Fernando Alonso. The two-time Formula 1 world champion was attempting to qualify for his second Indy 500 to give himself a chance at completing the famous triple crown of motorsports, but a crash during practice last week really threw a curveball into those plans. The backup #66 Chevrolet has been well and truly off the pace since the accident, with Fernando just missing out on the top thirty yesterday by a fraction of a second.

Prior to the Last-Row shootout, McLaren would make a deal with Andretti Autosport that saw Alonso’s car fitted with Andretti’s dampers in an attempt to improve the handling of Fernando’s car. The changes seemed to do the trick, with Alonso putting in a run of 227.353-mph, but he would find himself on the bubble of elimination with one driver left to qualify.

Credit: Tim Holle / Courtesy of IndyCar

That driver was Juncos Racing‘s, Kyle Kaiser. Like Alonso, Kaiser also crashed in practice. However, with the team running on a fraction of the budget of the likes of McLaren, getting a back-up car together was a monumental challenge. Despite this, Kaiser was able to return to the race-track and was able to try and scrape his way onto the Indy 500 grid.

In what was perhaps the biggest shock of the month so far, Kaiser’s four-lap run would see him end with an average speed of 227.372-mph, which was enough to eliminate McLaren and Alonso from the 2019 Indy 500 grid by just 0.019-mph. Kaiser will start thirty-third in next Sunday’s race, whilst a humiliated McLaren and Alonso try to find a way to buy their way onto the grid with the help of an already qualified team. This tactic has been implemented in previous Indy 500’s most recently when Ryan Hunter-Reay replaced Bruno Junqueria for the 2011 Indianapolis 500.

If Alonso fails to find his way onto the Indy 500 grid, he will be joined by the two remaining drivers who were not fast enough to make the field. Those two drivers both belonged to the Carlin stable, with Patricio O’Ward and Max Chilton simply not able to find the pace to challenge for the transfer spots. O’Ward’s run would come to an average speed of 227.092-mph, whilst a disastrous run for Chilton saw him run way off the pace with an average of 226.192-mph.

The field, barring any late substitutions, is now set for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Simon Pagenaud will lead the field to the green flag next Sunday, with Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot joining him on the front row, whilst Sage Karam, James Hinchcliffe and Kyle Kaiser will bookend the grid from the final row. Only 1.8-seconds ended up separating pole-sitter Pagenaud from Kaiser in thirty-third, meaning that the 2019 Indy 500 field is the closest Indy 500 field in the history of the famous race.

The thirty-three qualified drivers will head back out onto the track tomorrow for the penultimate practice session of the event, with final practice taking place on Friday, May 24 ahead of the race on Sunday, May 26.

Credit: Doug Matthews / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 – Full qualifying results:

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