By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
INDIANAPOLIS — Fernando Alonso will not compete in the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 26.
The two-time Formula One champion was bumped from the field of 33 during the Last Row Shootout on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after Kyle Kaiser edged his rival with four-lap qualifying run by 0.019 of a second.
“I didn’t spend much time with the team yet,” Alonso said. “I’ve been only in my motorhome, and yeah, talking with friends or family and following the Fast Nine. You know, once you are not anymore in, you try to, yeah, start relaxing a little bit. It has been a very long qualifying, nearly 56 hours of qualifying from yesterday morning.
“So yeah, we were just one place all the time-out. Yesterday 31st instead of 30. Today 34th instead of 33 by a very small margin, and yeah, unfortunately not fast enough in any or both days.
“Yeah, disappointed now. Obviously it would be nice to be in the race next Sunday. We came here to race and to challenge ourselves, and we were not quick enough. You know, I congratulate all the other guys that did a better job, and hopefully we’ll see a nice show next Sunday, everyone safe, and enjoying from the TV unfortunately.”
Alonso was the third of six drivers to compete in the final three positions to make the field of 33. He posted a four-lap average of 227.353 mph in the No. 66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet, which put him second at the time to James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda).
Moments later, Sage Karam displaced the Spaniard down the running order and on the bubble after qualifying at 227.740 mph in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet.
The scene grew tense on pit road as Alonso dodged the fifth driver to go out on track, Patricio O’Ward (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet). With it all up to the sixth and last driver, Kaiser led Juncos Racing, a small-budget second-year squad, into the crown jewel of the NTT IndyCar Series.
It was a remarkable result considering Kaiser vaulted into “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” with a backup car in the No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet. The primary entry was crashed during practice on Fast Friday.
Although Alonso was dealt a crushing blow in the end, he believes the qualifying format – new for this year – works.
“I think it was fun. It was good. Obviously not for us, but I think for a fun point of view, I think it’s nice,” Alonso said.
“Even on television, you have this — this drama on the last six, which, yeah, even if yesterday we were 31st, today we’re down further, we’re out. It’s part of the show and you accept it. I think the Fast Nine is something you see more often in other races, and that’s good, and yeah, to lock the 10th to the 30th is I think quite good, and today is a shorter day with a lot of stress for teams, drivers, but I think it’s a good show.
“I really enjoy the qualifying. Even yesterday, the multiple attempts, as long as you have new tires, it’s quite good because there were a lot of cars in line, two that they were not so sure, and they have to make a decision in the last moment and cancel their times. For me it was the first time because in 2017 it was not necessary, and I thought this it was a good format.”
In his only start in the Indy 500 in 2017, Alonso started fifth and led 27 laps before retiring with an engine failure in the closing stages and finishing 24th. After falling short of making the field in this his his second attempt at the iconic event – needing only an Indy 500 victory to claim the famed Triple Crown – he is uncertain if he’ll return.
“I don’t know,” Alonso confessed.
“Right now, I think it’s difficult to make any promise. It’s just too soon to make decisions. I don’t know even what I will do after next month’s Le Mans 24 hours, finish my program in the World Endurance Championship, and I wanted to have the 2020 open because I don’t know exactly what opportunities may come for me for next year in terms of racing. So you know, I don’t know — until I know the program for next year, I cannot promise or have any idea in my mind.
“But as I always say, I would be more than happy to race here again in the future and to win the triple crown, which is still a target or different target. You know, maybe I race different series with different challenges. Maybe next year, as well, completely out of my comfort zone again, and maybe, you know, this type of challenge, they can bring you a lot of success and you can be part of the history of the sport or can be really disappointed.
“You know, today is one of those, but I prefer to be here than to be like millions and millions of other people, you know, at home watching TV. I prefer to try.