Saturday A Bad Dream For Alonso & Hinchcliffe

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Fernando Alonso came up one spot short of locking himself into the Indianapolis 500 Saturday. (Ginny Heithaus Photo)
Fernando Alonso came up one spot short of locking himself into the Indianapolis 500 Saturday. (Ginny Heithaus Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – For Fernando Alonso and James Hinchcliffe, Saturday’s Indianapolis 500 qualifications were one bad dream.

They hope to wake up from that dream during Sunday’s Last Row Shootout.

There are six drivers left to contend for the three remaining positions in the starting lineup for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. They will have to make one last qualification attempt in Sunday’s Last Row Shootout that begins at 12:15 p.m.

The NBC telecast begins at 12 noon Eastern Time.

Hinchcliffe crashed on the second lap of his qualification attempt on Saturday. His Honda did a half-spin in turn two and made hard left-side contact with the SAFER Barrier. The car rotated onto its left sidepod as it slid down the track and landed on all four tires before coming to rest on the backstretch.

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Hinchcliffe was able to climb out of the car with help from the AMR IndyCar Safety Team.

Unlike last year, when Hinchcliffe was bumped out of the 33-car starting lineup by Conor Daly with 20 minutes remaining in the session, this year there was time to correct the issue.

But when his team returned with a backup car, Hinchcliffe was unable to crack the top 30 cars that were locked into the field for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. He will have to be one of the three fastest drivers in the Shootout.

James Hinchcliffe crashed his primary car in Indianapolis 500 qualifying Saturday and then struggled to find speed in his backup car. (Ginny Heithaus Photo)
James Hinchcliffe crashed his primary car in Indianapolis 500 qualifying Saturday and then struggled to find speed in his backup car. (Ginny Heithaus Photo)

“The car was a little bit loose in (turns) three and four but in one and two was solid, so actually I was just preparing to dial a bit of understeer in for the north end of the track,” Hinchcliffe explained. “I don’t know if we caught a gust or the wind changed or what. When it’s windy and it’s gusty and you’re in low downforce for qualifying, unfortunately that’s the risk you run.

“I got to (turn) two, and it just sort of suddenly snapped on me. I don’t know if it was a gust of wind or what. Worst-case scenario is doing it again tomorrow.

“We’re prepared. Obviously, this team is … they’re professionals. They know these things can happen. I’m not worried about getting back out. We just don’t know what kind of pace we’re going to have until we get there.”

“It’s pretty much worst-case scenario. It’s pretty much our nightmare. But I have a lot of faith in the Arrow guys. We’ll get one back together, and we’ll get back out there tomorrow.”

Alonso and McLaren made five qualification attempts but were ultimately bumped from the 30th position by J.R. Hildebrand in the closing minutes of Saturday’s session.

“I have one last attempt, another chance to get into the race,” Alonso said. “If we make it, OK. If we don’t make it, we don’t deserve to be in the race.

“We’ll try to do one last clean run and hopefully that will be good enough.”

Others involved in the Last Row Shootout include Carlin regulars Max Chilton and Pato O’Ward, part-time driver Kyle Kaiser and Indy-only driver Sage Karam.

“We will try to do something overnight, but as I said, there is not much we can find from one day to the next,” Alonso said. “Hopefully it’s enough to be in the top three positions tomorrow of the six.”