Alonso starts 26th for the Indy 500, but why you can’t count him out still

INDIANAPOLIS — Fernando Alonso showed some great pace early on this past week in practice. The popular Spaniard was the fastest Chevy on opening day (223.238 mph) and eighth (224.363 mph) on the timing charts on Thursday.

So, many were left wondering where the speed went once the boost went up on Fast Friday.

Alonso, was only 25th (229.788 mph) in Friday’s practice session. He turned that into a 26th place qualifying effort (228.768 mph) in Saturday’s Time Trials.

That got some people already writing him off for next Sunday’s 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). I caution that move.

Alonso, made a mistake late in the day during Thursday’s practice session. He got too low below the white line in Turn 4 and skated into the outside SAFER barrier at turn exit as a result.

His No. 66 Chevrolet didn’t have a bunch of visual damage, but it was still pretty extensive.

INDYCAR allowed his team to work late into the night to repair it so they wouldn’t have to go to a backup car. But, they also knew that it would be difficult for him to qualify in the Fast Nine in less than 48 hours.

So, they went with a more conservative setup in qual trim go keep him comfortable and to get him solidly in the field of 33. See, there’s no bumping this year and without much of a chance for a top 4 or 5 Row starting spots, why take any unnecessary risks?

“The speed was not there yesterday in practice and today in qualifying,” Alonso said. “We know that so we just wanted to put in a solid run in for qualifying with no mistakes and execute the best we could. I think we achieved that, and I’m happy with that.

“The No. 66 Ruoff Mortgage Arrow McLaren SP car was feeling great today.”

Alonso, says the he feels like he has a good chance on Aug. 23 and that despite a starting spot on the Middle of Row 9, he’s still confident.

“I think we have a good race car because the first few days we were on the competitive side,” Alonso continued. “The starting place for the race is not changing our hopes for next Sunday. All our focus now is on the race. This place offers a lot of possibilities even for the people starting at the back, and we will be looking to take that possibility next week.”

Plus, it’s not like he’s too far off from some of the heavy hitters. Tony Kanaan starts literally right ahead of him. Will Power is right next to Kanaan. Simon Pagenaud is right next to Alonso. That’s the last two Indy 500 winners that had similar qualifying speed to Alonso. I mean, Alonso was only .021 mph off Pagenaud on Saturday. Pagenaud, won the pole and the race last year.

No one has as many poles or race wins among the current field in this race than Helio Castroneves. Alonso, outqualified him.

So, don’t sleep on him next Sunday. He may be a contender still after all.

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