INDIANAPOLIS – Tony Kanaan overcame a second crash to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
The former IndyCar Series champion made it onto the starting grid, posting a four-lap average of 224.072 mph with 30 minutes left in qualifying. That was good enough to bump rookie Sebastian Saavedra out of the 33-car starting field.
Kanaan will start 32nd.
It’s the first time the Brazilian will start outside the first two rows in eight Indy starts, but after a dreadful weekend for Andretti Autosport, they’ll take it.
From Kanaan’s crashes to Danica Patrick’s contentious comments, the Andretti Curse was back in full force at Indy – right up until the final moments when Kanaan managed to stay off the Bump Day bubble.
Saturday’s pole-day qualifying started with a run Marco Andretti described as “pathetic,” and yet the 23-year-old had the best starting position of anyone on his dad’s five-car team. Marco will start 16th, the inside of Row 6.
Kanaan and Patrick had even worse weekends.
Patrick, the series’ most marketable personality, jumped out of her car after Saturday’s sub-par run and immediately blamed the team for her poor performance – comments that drew boos from the crowd.
A day later, after questioning the booing, Patrick tempered her response, though her assessment seemed to be spot on.
“I was a little emotional yesterday,” she said in a television interview. “I was still shaking when I did the interview because we were on a very, very ragged edge out there.”
But it was Kanaan and his crew who were in the most desperate situation after Kanaan hit the wall in the first turn for the second time in less than 24 hours.
His crew recycled the top of Kanaan’s backup car, and pieced together body parts from both of Kanaan’s wrecked cars, both of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s cars and Marco Andretti’s backup. The mechanical parts came out of Hunter-Reay’s qualified car.
Four hours later, Kanaan was shaking down the rebuilt car with another problem – it couldn’t reach qualifying speed.
Finally, in the last hour, Kanaan posted consecutive laps topping 223.8 – good enough to make the field – and put the car immediately in qualifying line, where he delivered one of the best clutch performances of his career.
Kanaan wasn’t the only big name dealing with tension Sunday.
Brazil’s Bruno Junqueira, the 2002 Indy pole winner, earned one of the nine open spots Sunday with the fastest qualifying average of the day – 225.662.
Sarah Fisher’s four-lap average of 224.434 put a record fourth woman in the starting field and was the quickest of the four. A fifth woman, Venezuela’s Milka Duno, failed to qualify on all three of her attempts Sunday.
But in a stunning twist at the end, Paul Tracy, who lost the Indy 500 title in the disputed finish of 2002, withdrew his speed and failed to requalify.