Event Coverage: 2016 Indianapolis 500 Qualifying


Buddy Lazier may be the least likely to win the 500, but his is the car every old-school IndyCar fan should be pulling for.  Lazier’s car is owned by his family and the team is TINY.  Whereas most teams transport their cars in huge, spotless tractor trailers, Lazier’s mostly un-sponsored team showed up in a lawn care trailer towed by a pickup truck.  This team is as bare-bones and shade tree as you can get, with a 4-year old development chassis bought from the failed Lotus team, with a brand new Chevy aero kit bolted on.  No, they’re not sponsored by Rockstar Energy, I think they just found that umbrella (and Buddy’s Advance Auto sponsored fire suit) at the last Monster Jam event that went through Lucas Oil Stadium.  
Buddy is the only driver who competed in the 500 before the Split.  The 1996 winner can be a threat, but the chances of the 48 year old becoming a two-time winner are slim.  His was the last car entered in the race and was also the slowest, qualifying 2 MPH slower than Jack Hawksworth’s 31st placed Honda, and 8 MPH slower than the eventual pole speed.  That said, Lazier has been focusing on race setup all month, so there is potential for him to do better in the race.  If he wins it again, you will be able to hear the crowd in China.
One of the big surprises in qualifying was Graham Rahal.  Honda’s best weapon fell flat on his face come qualifying.  Rahal could only manage a 26th place starting position.  He has been Honda’s fastest, most consistent car since the aero kit era, but qualifying has always puzzled him.  Last year, he had a transmission issue that kept him out of top gear.  In 2016, he was just slow.  His father Bobby won this race exactly 30 years ago.  If Graham can pull off a win on Sunday, it will be a huge upset.
Tony Kanaan is always one to watch at Indy.  He is a popular fan favorite: the cheers from fans when he takes the lead follow him around the track.  He has been snake bitten with bad luck many times, though he did finally break through in 2013.  He starts 18th, much lower than he was hoping for.  None of the Ganassi cars have been particularly quick this month.  Perhaps they have something saved up for the race?
Last year’s 500 winner, Juan Pablo Montoya, ran into some terrible luck.  Montoya was the only driver allowed a second run.  On his first attempt, a garbage bag blew onto his car and he was forced to slow drastically to avoid crashing.  IndyCar allowed him a second attempt, but he had to take it immediately, only being allowed fresh tires and a top up of his fuel tank: his car would still be hot when he went out.  Despite the unfavorable conditions, Montoya managed to put his car in 17th.  Considering he won the race after contact and a pit violation a year ago, don’t count out the Colombian ace until the checkered flag has fallen.
Bryan Clauson is a USAC winner, the type of driver that used to come to Indy in droves in the 1960s.  In 2016, Clauson is competing in 200, yes you read that right, TWO HUNDRED different races.  In fact, as you’re reading this, he may even be racing at Lucas Oil Speedway in a Sprint car.  Bryan crashed out in last year’s, race, in 2016 he starts 28th.

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