Jack Hawksworth (IndyCar photo)

Hawksworth wins Indy Lights at Baltimore as title battle intensifies (VIDEO)

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Jack Hawksworth led a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian podium sweep in Baltimore for his third win of the Firestone Indy Lights season.

A runner-up finish for Sage Karam moves him to the points lead, with Gabby Chaves third to complete the top three. The trio also went 1-2-3 at Iowa, with Karam leading Chaves and Hawksworth there.

Karam made an excellent move – one he called “the best of his career” on Lap 1 to go three-wide on the inside of Chaves and Carlos Munoz to move into second place at Turn 3.

Hawksworth’s Baltimore drive was peerless from pole, a flag-to-flag triumph in the 35-lap race. He also won on two other street circuits, St. Petersburg and Toronto.

The day was great for SPM but a disaster for Munoz, who crashed on Lap 5 with something that apparently broke on the back of his Andretti Autosport car and pitched him into the wall entering Turn 5. That dropped Munoz to a ninth place finish.

The result moves Karam to the points lead, unofficially, with 373 points. Munoz is second with 371, Chaves 369 and Hawkswoth fourth on 362 with a maximum 53 points earned in Baltimore.

Peter Dempsey, who finished fourth, is still alive as well with 338 points but would need to win at Houston and hope for the four ahead to have issues to gain back the deficit.

Jorge Goncalvez finished fifth at Baltimore ahead of Matthew Di Leo, Giancarlo Serenelli, Zach Veach, Munoz, and series debutante Dalton Kellett. Kellett and Serenelli had unscheduled appointments with the concrete barriers while Veach had mechanical issues.

The second-to-last race for Indy Lights will be at Houston on Oct. 6, the inaugural trip to the street course for the series.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/