Simon Pagenaud Wins The Pole; Fernando Alonso Fails To Qualify For Indianapolis 500
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again showed how unforgiving she can be this past weekend.
Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso will not take part in the Indianapolis 500 for the second year in a row. In 2018 Alonso was in his final year with McLaren's Formula One team.
"Just one place all the time," Alonso said. "Unfortunately just not fast enough, on both days. We came here to race and challenge ourselves and we weren't quick enough."
"We didn't give you a car that was fast enough," said McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferren directly to Alonso during a press conference after qualifying. "I want to apologize to you."
Alonso was bumped from the field in qualifying on day one Saturday by just one spot. He was bumped a second time, by one spot, from the field by Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing on Sunday with a four-lap average of 227.372 miles per hour.
"It felt like we qualified on pole when we came in to be quite honest," Kaiser said. "I just heard screaming in my helmet when I asked if we had made it."
James Hinchcliffe, who failed to qualify last year, was able to get in along with Sage Karam. Alonso, Max Chilton, and Patricio O'Ward all failed to qualify.
"I hope (Formula One) fans have a new appreciation for how difficult it is to get into this race," said Hinchcliffe on Alonso not making it into the field.
Roger Penske said he knows how the whole McLaren team feels.
"I had it happen to me in '95 with two cars," Penske said. "It's a shame for them. I'm sorry to not see those guys make it."
De Ferren confirmed that McLaren will not try to buy a seat from one of the teams that did make the field, saying "we want to earn it."
Alonso said he is not sure yet if he will try to come back next year and try again.
Winning the pole was Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud, who is fresh off winning the IndyCar Grand Prix just a week ago. His four-lap qualifying average of 229.992 miles per hour was good enough to thrust him to the pole position.
"It's a team effort," Pagenaud said. "This is truely what Team Penske does. They give us the best equipment. I've very honored to drive for this team."
Pagenaud is the first frenchman to win the pole since 1919, exactly 100 years ago.
"I think when you look at Simon's run today, you have to be happy with the consistancy with a few laps over 230," said Pagenaud's car owner Roger Penske. "It was like Mears (Rick Mears) qualifying in the old days."
Pagenaud said winning this pole has rejuvenated his confidence after struggling the last couple years with the new car.
Last year's pole winner, Ed Carpenter, qualified second (229.889) and his teammate Spencer Pigot (229.826) will roll off on the outside of the front row in third on raceday.
"I think the strength of our team is what I'm most excited about," Carpenter said of his team's effort. "To be rolling off second, third, and fourth is amazing. Really wish one of us had ended up on pole, but I'm happy with where we are."
This will be the fifth time in the last seven years that Carpenter will start either on the pole or in the second spot come raceday.
This is the tightest qualifying field in the history of the race with only 1.8 mph separating the pole sitter from the slowest qualifier, who in this case is Pippa Mann (227.224).
Teams will now start returning their cars to race trim as they have only a limited amount of time to practice between now and raceday, May 26th.
(PHOTOS: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar)