Katherine Legge survives Bump Day bubble at Indy

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With about 20 minutes remaining in Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Katherine Legge was strapped into her No. 81 Schmidt Peterson Pelfrey Motorsports Honda, ready to defend her spot on the 33rd starting position for the 97th Indianapolis 500 if necessary.

Turns out she didn’t have to bother. Legge’s four-lap average of 223.176 miles per hour was enough for her to stay in the field as Michel Jourdain, Jr., the only driver that could take her out of it, did not make a bump attempt in the waning moments.

The Mexican racer and his No. 17 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team had been searching for solid speed throughout the week, but could never find it. His fastest lap on Sunday was at 219.843 mph — nowhere close to what he’d need to knock Legge off the grid.

As a result, there was no bumping on Bump Day at the Brickyard for the second consecutive year.

“All of the guys tried so hard,” Jourdain said to NBC Sports Network’s Marty Snider. “All week, we struggled a lot. Some days, it felt like it may be feeling a little better but it was never there.

“This morning, we tried  James’ [Jakes] set-up and it was impossible to drive and then we pulled Graham’s [Rahal] setup — the car was exactly the same — and he couldn’t drive it. He said it was impossible to drive. We changed whatever we had time to [change], we went out, and the car was exactly the same…It’s just so sad. My sponsors trust me and it’s not like I can go next week and do another race.”

As for Legge, who was announced as the driver of the No. 81 Honda on Saturday, she had mixed emotions — feeling badly for Jourdain’s plight but happy to be back in the “500.”

“It’s not nice for him to not have the opportunity,” she said to NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “However, I am happy that I am in the field, I’m not gonna lie about that. It’s been a really, really long few days but I’m gonna sleep tonight for the first time really good.”

Also joining her on the last row of the grid will be A.J. Foyt Racing rookie Conor Daly in 31st position (223.582 mph) and 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier (223.443) in 32nd position.

“It’s really about the team,” Lazier said to NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “They did a great job. With the small amount of time, a lot of hard work and a lot of heart, they gave us a great race car. We were sweating today. The track temperature was going up and everybody was struggling. But it was a good car. It’s been in the 225 range so we knew it had speed but, boy, I was definitely sweatin’ it the last two hours.”

97TH INDIANAPOLIS 500
STARTING LINEUP

Row 1
20-Ed Carpenter
26-Carlos Munoz
25-Marco Andretti

Row 2
5-E.J. Viso
2-A.J. Allmendinger
12-Will Power

Row 3
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay
3-Helio Castroneves
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 4
4-J.R. Hildebrand
98-Alex Tagliani
11-Tony Kanaan

Row 5
22-Oriol Servia
19-Justin Wilson
7-Sebastien Bourdais

Row 6
9-Scott Dixon
10-Dario Franchitti
14-Takuma Sato

Row 7
83-Charlie Kimball
16-James Jakes
77-Simon Pagenaud

Row 8
60-Townsend Bell
8-Ryan Briscoe
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 9
21-Josef Newgarden
15-Graham Rahal
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 10
55-Tristan Vautier
18-Ana Beatriz
63-Pippa Mann

Row 11
41-Conor Daly
91-Buddy Lazier
81-Katherine Legge

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/