INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Fernando Alonso and McLaren are in serious danger of missing the Indianapolis 500 after a rocky first day of qualifying.
Alonso needed four attempts to crack the top 30 that would have locked him into the field for the May 26 race. But Graham Rahal made a final qualifying effort at the buzzer Saturday and knocked Alonso out of the field.
Alonso and five other drivers will have one chance Sunday to snag the final three spots in the 33-driver field.
“We didn’t have the speed,” the Spaniard said. “If we don’t make it, it is because we don’t deserve it.”
Alonso will be joined in the “Last Row Shootout” by James Hinchcliffe, who last year was bumped out of the race when qualifying was just one day. Hinchcliffe crashed on his first qualifying attempt and couldn’t get his backup to the speed needed.
Pippa Mann, the second driver along with Hinchcliffe bumped from last year’s race, cemented her spot when Rahal knocked Alonso out of the top 30. She will be the only woman in the field and was in tears when Rahal crossed the line.
IndyCar’s new qualifying format this year locked 30 drivers into the field Saturday. The fastest nine are scheduled to qualify again Sunday for the pole, and the slowest six will try for the final three spots.
Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter Racing led a Chevrolet sweep and posted a four-lap average of 230.083 mph to top the speed chart. The Team Penske contingent of Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden followed.
Colton Herta, a rookie with one series victory already this year, cracked the top nine on his first qualifying lap but wasn’t satisfied and made a second run later in the day. It was risky because he could have dropped outside the Fast 9, but he instead jumped to fifth with the fastest Honda.
The rest of the Fast 9 is Pigot’s teammates Ed Jones and Ed Carpenter in Chevys, then Alexander Rossi and Sebastien Bourdais in Hondas.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is supposed to be hit by a lengthy day of rain Sunday, and if cars can’t get on track, the field will be set by the current speeds and Pigot will be the pole-sitter for “The Great American Race.”
Should the slowest six not get a chance to qualify, IndyCar will run the shootout for the last row Monday.