UPDATE: Pre-race ceremonies completed at Bristol

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UPDATE (2:43 p.m. ET): Pre-race ceremonies, including the driver introductions, invocation and national anthem, have been completed at Bristol Motor Speedway. It appears we’re ready to go racing in the Food City 500. Keep an eye on MotorSportsTalk throughout the afternoon for coverage.

UPDATE (1:46 p.m. ET): Good news for fans hoping to see the Food City 500 later today. The rain has apparently lightened up to the point where NASCAR has been able to deploy the Air Titan track drying system.

Hendrick Motorsports has passed along word that driver intros are now set to go off just after 2 p.m. ET…

Additionally, NASCAR officials have now made their way to Race Control – another good sign.

UPDATE (12:43 p.m. ET): Steady rains at Bristol Motor Speedway have delayed the start of today’s Food City 500 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Rain was falling early this morning and has continued to do so as we head into the afternoon. The 500-lap race was scheduled to begin just after 1 p.m. ET.

Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News reported that Bristol general manager Jerry Caldwell was hopeful that the track could catch a break in the afternoon.

And in a brief statement that’s just been released, Caldwell has reiterated that hope…

“At this time, the NASCAR Sprint Cup pre-race and Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway are on hold due to weather. There appears to be a mid to late afternoon window and we are hopeful to begin drying the track at that time for the running of the event. More information on http://www.bristolmotorspeedway.com as it becomes available.”

NASCAR policy states that a race becomes official when it goes past the halfway point – in this case, Lap 251 of 500. And once again, it should be noted that Bristol does have a lighting system and NASCAR’s Air Titan track drying system is on hand.

Yesterday, the track stated that they were ready to run the race at Noon ET tomorrow should today prove to be a total washout. Monday’s forecast in Bristol calls for a 60 percent chance of rain that tapers down to 40 percent by nightfall.

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.