Indianapolis Motor Speedway weather will be crucial Saturday for the NTT IndyCar Series drivers qualifying for one of the Indianapolis 500 thirty-three slots. At 8am for practice, it was already 70 degrees F, with a forecast of 87 F. The 90-minute session is divided into three half-hour sessions: Group One is the first half of the qualifying draw Primary cars, one is for the second half, and the last is for everyone. When qualifying began, the temps had climbed to 83F ambient and 113-118 F for the track, depending on which corner one measured.The wind varied from 3 mph to 13 mph and back. The skies were blue with puffy white clouds here and there.
For the first practice group, only Max Chilton/No.59 Carlin Chevrolet and Rookie Ben Hanley/No.81 10 Star DragonSpeed Chevrolet went out, turning but a handful of laps between them. For the second practice group, Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet and Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet were the only takers. Kaiser’s backup car was prepared and ready to go, after the team literally worked all night to get it ready. The track crew works also in the other series, so there weren’t that many other Juncos crew available as they all were at the track, without sleep. The paint guys from the Indy Lights team helped out with shiny new graphics. Kaiser went out and put it through systems checks, and just kept turning laps – 32, trying to get a decent No Tow speed in preparation for Qualifying. Kaiser’s Qualifying slot is 12th for the T car, and 62nd for the Primary, of 68 draws.
Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet went out near the end of Group 2, and ran flat out to warm up the car before pitting. Alonso drew P24 for the T car, and P39 for his Primary. His car also has a painted chassis. Alonso ran 13 laps. He was feeling better about his chances, after all the problems – electrical issues and crashing. Alonso was frustrated Thursday as the day wore on and the car wasn’t ready and then it rained. Another frustration was the changing weather, which didn’t compromise the car’s performance as he wasn’t out in it. But missing the track time hurt. “More laps you do, better it is.” And Fernando is enjoying having Johnny Rutherford with the team, in Alonso’s pit.
Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet was able to get out Saturday morning in his practice group, turning 11 laps. His backup race car is still in its original wrapper – the blue Gallagher graphics of teammate Max Chilton. The car is Chilton’s road course car. When the damaged tub gets back from repairs, the team will rewrap O’Ward’s car.