INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Kaiser called the last 48 hours the most emotional of his life.
During Fast Friday practice, the 23-year-old driver for Juncos Racing violently wrecked his car, and the smallest team in the paddock raced against the clock to get the second car ready.
Fast forward to Sunday and the driver, whose Twitter bio says he's a part-time student, and the team without a sponsor for the month of May knocked out mighty McLaren and two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso to earn the final spot in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.
"It felt like I qualified on pole when I came in," Kaiser said. "I came across the start/finish (line), and I asked, 'Are we in? Did we make it?' and I just heard screaming, and that was a good sign."
Making the field of 33 is challenging enough on its own but to do it in a backup car with limited track time is even tougher.
Yet, Kaiser never lost faith he would qualify. He believed as long as he kept the car flat on the track, he would pay back his team for all its hard work.
"I did imagine it, and I'm so happy that it came to fruition," Kaiser said. "But I knew it was going to be a lot of work, and the team put in the work. I did everything I think I needed, and they did everything they had to do."
Kaiser was one of six drivers to practice early Saturday morning, posting the third-fastest speed. Later in the day, during qualifications, two of his three attempts were waived off. The other was deemed a failed attempt, and he was forced to wait out the night until he could try again.
Juncos Racing elected not to run in Sunday morning's practice, instead using the time to make sure the car was ready for its lone Last Row Shootout attempt.
A six-hour rain delay benefitted the team even further.
"We were sanding it while it was raining, trying to get every little bit off that car, and that's what Indy is all about," he said. "You need every little bit to make this field."
Team owner Ricardo Juncos said choosing not to go out for Sunday's practice session is what got the team the final spot.
"It allowed us to work another four or five hours on the car. We probably wouldn't be here if not for that," Juncos said. "We were working on the main car for one year, and you've got to do all that work in two nights."
The delay also gave McLaren the opportunity to get its car ready for its one chance to make the field.
Alonso wrecked his main car Wednesday, taking away precious time on the track while the team prepared its backup. The team found its fastest speed, like many, Friday but never came close to replicating its 229.328 mph lap Saturday.
Still, Alonso's Saturday four-lap average was the best of the remaining six drivers yet to qualify, but his Sunday didn't start off the way he planned.
In the early morning practice session, he wasn't able to turn four laps, scraping the bottom of the car through the turns. His team was able to regroup, and he put down an average of 272.353, but Kaiser's 272.372 knocked him out.
Alonso praised the effort of his crew and said the car felt better than it had all weekend.
"The car felt good, and the conditions we had today were much better. So you feel more downforce, and I think it was not too difficult in this last qualifying (session)," he said. "I think the car felt better now, but obviously it's not practice, and you only have one attempt. It's the way it is."
Speculation began early Sunday that McLaren, should it fail to qualify for the race, would buy its way into the field.
After the Fast Nine Shootout ended, McLaren Racing Sporting Director Gil De Ferran announced the team would not buy its way back in.
"We will not do that," he said. "We want to earn our place."
Rounding out the field in front of Kaiser on the last row are Sage Karem and James Hinchcliffe. It's not quite the redemption story for Hinchcliffe like 2016, but he was relieved to make the field after missing it last year.
In addition to Alonso, both Carlin drivers -- Patricio O'Ward and Max Chilton -- missed the cut. Charlie Kimball, who is racing just five events after several years as a full-time driver, is the only Carlin Motorsport driver to qualify.
Follow Dylan Trimpe on Twitter @Trimp3 or contact him at 648-4250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.