Fernando Alonso crashes on second day of Indianapolis 500 practice

Leave a comment

A tough start to Fernando Alonso’s second attempt at the Indianapolis 500 took a turn for the worse early Wednesday afternoon.

The McLaren Racing driver hit the outside wall in Turn 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then spun through the infield grass into a heavy rear-end impact with the inside wall. The No. 66 Dallara-Chevrolet slowly skidded back up the track and made light left-front contact with the SAFER barrier (video of the crash is available here or by watching above).

Alonso walked away from the crash and talked with Dillon Welch on the NBC Sports Gold broadcast after being treated and released from the track’s care center.

“Pure understeer on the car, I lifted the throttle, and it was not enough,” Alonso told Welch. “I lost it completely. The wall came too close and too quickly.

“Unfortunately, it happened today. We will lose a little bit of running time again. I’m sorry for the team, but we’ll learn and hopefully come back this time tomorrow.”

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

Gil de Ferran, the sporting director for McLaren, told Welch in a separate interview that it was too early to decide whether the team would go to a backup car or fix its primary.

“We’ll just huddle around the car and assess the situation in the coming hours,” de Ferran said. “It looked like we’ve been suffering from understeer throughout the morning, and it understeered into the wall, and that was it.”

The two-time Formula One champion already had suffered through a difficult opening day Tuesday when his car was plagued by electrical problems and ranked 32nd on the speed chart.

Alonso told reporters that his car handled “much better” Wednesday before the crash.

“Definitely we were moving in the right direction,” he said. “Small steps that we learned today that hopefully we can bring for next time. … These things happen in motorsport. Better today than on (May 26 race day). Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Alonso, who was part of the team that won the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in January, finished 24th as a rookie in the 2017 Indy 500, leading 27 laps before suffering an engine failure.

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

Leave a comment

Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter