2019 Indy 500: Kyle Kaiser over Fernando Alonso a story of perseverance

AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 06: Kyle Kaiser, driver of the #32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 06: Kyle Kaiser, driver of the #32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Kyle Kaiser bumping Fernando Alonso out of the field for the 103rd running of the Indy 500 is a story of perseverance by “the little team that could”.

Call it a Cinderella story. Call it a #16 seed over a #1 seed. Call it David vs. Goliath. Or, quite simply, just call it an upset.

But don’t sell short the fact that Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser bumped two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren Racing out of the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

It was nothing less than a story of perseverance involving one of IndyCar‘s smallest and most underfunded teams and least recognized drivers against one of the most well-known, well-funded race teams in the world and one of the most well-known and all-time greatest race car drivers in history.

After losing two of their primary sponsors for this year’s running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, there was uncertainty as to whether Juncos Racing would indeed be able to attempt to qualify for the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in Speedway, Indiana.

But Kaiser still took to the track and practiced in an all-white #32 Chevrolet throughout the week leading up to qualifying. However, on Fast Friday, he was involved in a nasty accident.

Juncos Racing worked hard to prepare the backup car for Kaiser to drive in Saturday’s qualifying session, but that session resulted in the 23-year-old Santa Clara, California native making a failed qualifying attempt and two additional qualifying attempts that were waived off.

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To put it bluntly, was clear that his backup car did not have the speed that his original car did.

At the end of the session, Kaiser was officially scored in 36th out of 36 drivers with a four-lap average speed of 0.000 miles per hour. He completed 10 timed laps (13 total laps) over the course of his three qualifying attempts, and his fastest individual lap time was 39.6294 seconds (227.104120 miles per hour). He was moved to Sunday’s Last Row Bump Day qualifying session along with five other drivers who would battle him for the final three positions on the starting grid.

As Juncos Racing continued to prepare the #32 Chevrolet for Kaiser to make one final four-lap qualifying attempt to get into the Indy 500 for the second time in his career, Kaiser did not get the opportunity to practice on Sunday morning with these other five drivers.

At this point, he was all but written off.

Kaiser, the last of these six qualifiers in the qualifying session itself, had his work cut out for him by the time it was his turn to take to the track. Alonso sat on the bubble in the provisional 33rd starting position after recording a four-lap average speed of 227.353105 (officially rounded to 227.353) miles per hour.

Here is how Alonso’s qualifying attempt in this session went.

  • Lap 1: 227.777173 miles per hour
  • Lap 2: 227.278467 miles per hour
  • Lap 3: 227.137363 miles per hour
  • Lap 4: 227.220512 miles per hour

Even in practice, Kaiser’s top lap speed was only 227.078907 miles per hour. So at no point leading up to his all-or-nothing qualifying attempt had he recorded a lap speed that was quicker than any of the four lap speeds that Alonso recorded during his final four-lap qualifying attempt for this race.

Where was the youngster going to get the speed to beat the global racing icon, and over the course of an entire high-pressure four-lap run, no less?

After Carlin rookie Patricio O’Ward failed to bump Alonso from the field in the qualifying session’s penultimate qualifying attempt, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Alonso would start the race in 33rd place alongside 31st and 32nd place starters Sage Karam of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and James Hinchcliffe of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on the 11th row of the starting grid while Kaiser would fail to qualify.

But the 2017 Indy Lights champion and part-time student at Santa Clara University had different plans as far as dealing with the two-time Formula 1 champion was concerned.

Kaiser’s first lap speed?

227.720117 miles per hour, slightly slower than that of Alonso.

Kaiser’s second lap speed?

227.419746 miles per hour, slightly faster than that of Alonso and slightly faster over the first two laps as a whole.

Kaiser’s third lap speed?

227.238871 miles per hour, once again slightly faster than that of Alonso and slightly faster over the first three laps as a whole.

The speed of Kaiser’s fourth lap needed to be 227.034799 miles per hour or more for him to lock himself into the field and bump Alonso out.

Kaiser’s fourth lap speed?

227.108704 miles per hour, giving him a four-lap average speed of 227.371628 (officially rounded to 227.372) miles per hour, a four-lap average speed that was just 0.018524 miles per hour faster than that of Alonso.





The pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport will have to wait at least another year for the 37-year-old Spaniard, whose team even paid Andretti Autosport for their technology and Team Penske for a setup sheet prior to his 34th place qualifying effort.

Kaiser finished a grand total of 0.0129 seconds (158.3311 seconds to 158.3440 seconds) ahead of Alonso over the course of their respective 10-mile qualifying attempts. Over the course of a 10-mile run, he finished just 51.618249 inches ahead of the 32-time Formula 1 Grand Prix race winner.

In all of this past week’s practice sessions for this race combined, Kaiser completed a total of 161 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway leading up to qualifying. Heading into Sunday’s Last Row Bump Day qualifying session, he had completed a total of 174 laps at the track.

When his four-lap qualifying attempt in this session had concluded, he had completed a total of 179 laps (warm-up laps included) at the track.

His fastest four laps?

Lap 176, lap 177, lap 178 and lap 179.

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How will Kyle Kaiser perform in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 itself? It certainly won’t be an easy task for him and his Juncos Racing team to have a great race on Memorial Day Sunday, May 26, but if anybody is up for knocking off the giants of IndyCar, it is undoubtedly this pairing.