Who Is Kyle Kaiser?

Kyle Kaiser - Indianapolis Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

Kyle Kaiser – Indianapolis Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

By Joe Jennings

INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Kaiser is an unknown to many race fans, that is until Bump Day on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With the fastest 30 drivers locked in during Saturday’s speed trials, Bump Day featured six drivers vying for the final three starting positions for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

Oddsmakers seemed to favor hard-charging Sage Karam, former pole winner James Hinchcliffe, two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso or sensational rookie Patricio O’Ward for the final row with Max Chilton and Kaiser omitted from the scuttlebutt.

Kaiser had crashed his car on Friday, forcing his small Juncos Racing Chevrolet team to pull an all-nighter to prepare their road-course car. Even though they succeeded, they skipped Sunday’s warm-up session to allow the team to properly finish their work.

Karam and Hinchcliffe quickly lived up to expectations but Chilton and O’Ward came up short, leaving the final spot a duel between Alonso and his heavily funded McLaren team and Kaiser and his un-sponsored entry.

Alonso seemed to be fast enough, but Kaiser wasn’t to be denied as he powered through the 10-mile run at 227.372 miles per hour, nipping the dismayed Alonso team by a scant .019 mph.

David (Kaiser) had slain Goliath (Alonso), setting off a shock-wave throughout the racing world.

“I really didn’t know right away and I heard it was really close,” the excited driver said. “When I came across the start-finish line, the first thing I asked was, ‘Did we make it?’ And the first thing I heard was my team screaming, so that was a good sign. To be honest, it felt like we qualified on the pole. It was pretty wild.”

Kaiser credited his team for their determination and perseverance. “I think they had 40 straight hours of work trying to get the car together; it is just an unbelievable effort. We stuck with our guns, and it really paid off.”

The Indy 500 will be Kaiser’s sixth Indy Car race — four in 2018 and one this year. A year ago, in his first 500, he qualified 17th and finished 29th.

As background, Kaiser is a 23-year old, part-time college student from Santa Clara, California. He’s been racing since age seven, starting out with karts. Thereafter, he did three seasons with the Skip Barber series followed by stints with the Formula Car Challenge and Pro Mazda Championship.

Catching the eye of Ricardo Juncos, the pair teamed up for three seasons of Indy Lights competition where he won five races and the 2017 championship, claiming the $1 million scholarship to race in the NTT IndyCar Series.

While not expected to be a contender this weekend, his name and heroic accomplishment will never be forgotten. And years from now, Kaiser’s name will likely be part of a trivia question – Who was the driver that knocked F1 champion Fernando Alonso out of the 2019 Indianapolis 500?

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