Marco Andretti’s 225.1 leads Monday practice at Indy

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Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves led Monday’s practice session for the Indianapolis 500. The two were the only drivers in the field to eclipse the 225mph mark for the day, each tow-assisted.

Andretti again noted how race simulation produced the day’s fastest lap of 225.100mph.

“It helps us now to simulate a mini race,” he said. “I think that’s how the Ganassi team beat us last year. I got too fascinated with how fast can the car go. The car was a handful in the race and it bit me in the end. We knew we needed to make some gains.”

Following the lead two, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and JR Hildebrand completed the top five.

Chevrolets took eight of the top 10 spots with only Takuma Sato (sixth) and Josef Newgarden (tenth) interloping in their Hondas. AJ Allmendinger, James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan filled spots 7-9 on the day.

Thirty-two drivers took laps, James Jakes completing the most on the day (114 with a best of 218.351, 30th quickest) and Townsend Bell the fewest (12, 221.137, 21st).

Also of note, Conor Daly completed his rookie orientation program and Pippa Mann ran her first laps of the month, while Tristan Vautier’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team premiered a plain white car with Lucas Oil sponsorship.

SPM has a second car entered under that umbrella, third as a whole in the Schmidt team, but is unlikely to run it before the weekend. Buddy Lazier is now the only confirmed driver yet to make laps; he’s expected to roll out the No. 91 Lazier Partners Racing Chevrolet on Wednesday, weather pending.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.