The final pre-qualifying practice is in the books for this year’s Indianapolis 500. There were faster speeds, more tows, and a new name atop the timesheets heading into Pole Day qualifying on NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports Live Extra, beginning at 11 a.m. ET.
Will Power recorded the morning’s, and the month’s, fastest lap of 229.808. But like all other fastest laps this month, the Verizon Team Penske driver set his thanks to a tow.
“It’s pretty heavy on air, you could say. It’s pretty humid out there, but it’s cool,” he said. “It’s very difficult to predict what to run trim-wise for qualifying. We’ll see when the temperature comes. If it’s similar to this, I think we have a good idea. We’re just working it out. You’ve just got to make an educated guess. When I was out there, getting little bits of moisture on your visor makes you nervy. You’re not sure if it’s going to start raining in a different area. I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
The rest of the top five included his Team Penske teammate AJ Allmendinger, followed by three Hondas: Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud.
It’s hard to read too much into these times because of the tows, the various downforce levels on the car, and the temperatures. Power did record the morning’s fastest solo lap, 228.1 per NBC Sports Network analyst Jon Beekhuis, so that is something to note.
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.