Tony Kanaan overcame a double whammy to qualify for this year's Indianapolis 500 next weekend. The former IndyCar Series champion made it on to the starting grid despite crashing twice in two days, posting a four-lap average of 360 kph with 30 minutes left in qualifying on Sunday. That was good enough to knock Sebastian Saavedra, a rookie, out of the 33-car starting field.
"You live, you learn and we crashed," Kanaan said after getting the 32nd starting spot in the 33-car field. "Today was just a nightmare. "Apart from that, the conditions were the hottest we've ever seen. The track was really slick, I saw everybody complaining. So it's tough to keep it cool and say 'Yeah, we're just going to go out at five.' It's the last day, you're not in the field yet, crashed two cars and just stay cool."
It is the first time in eight Indy starts that the Brazilian will start outside the first two rows, but after an awful weekend for Andretti Autosport, they will take it. With Kanaan's crashes and Danica Patrick's contentious comments, the Andretti Curse was back in full force at Indianapolis. Pole qualifying on Saturday started with a run Marco Andretti described as "pathetic", and yet the 23-year-old had the best starting position of anyone on his father's five-car team. Marco will start 16th, the inside of the sixth row.
Kanaan and Patrick had even worse weekends. Patrick, the series' most marketable personality, jumped out of her car after a sub-par run on Saturday and immediately blamed the team for her poor performance - comments that drew boos as they were aired over the speedway's public address system. A day later, after questioning the booing, Patrick tempered her response, though her assessment seemed to be spot on.
"I was a little emotional," 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 at the first turn for the second time in less than 24 hours. "Obviously, it was a very emotional day for me," he said. "I'm not the type of guy - I don't cry very easily - the other Brazilian [Helio Castroneves] does all the time. But it was a tough day for me. Every time I came out it was very emotional."
His crew recycled the top of Kanaan's back-up car, and pieced together body parts from both of Kanaan's wrecked cars, both of Ryan Hunter-Reay's cars and Marco Andretti's back up. And in a stunning twist, Paul Tracy, who lost the Indy 500 title in the disputed finish of 2002, withdrew his speed and failed to requalify. Jay Howard also withdrew his qualifying speed and failed to make the starting line up.
That put Saavedra, of Colombia, back in the starting line up despite a late crash that prevented him from making another qualifying attempt. Pole position was taken on Saturday by Castroneves, last year's winner. * AP