Kurt Busch back to work at Indy; four pass “500” rookie programs (VIDEO)

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Monday was a busy day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as NASCAR driver Kurt Busch continued his IndyCar education and four drivers were able to complete the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program.

After completing his own ROP last week, Busch logged 114 laps this afternoon in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda and had his fastest go for 222.289 miles per hour. He also got in some pit stop practice with the Andretti crew:

Meanwhile, Mikhail Aleshin (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports), Jack Hawksworth (Bryan Herta Autosport), Carlos Huertas (Dale Coyne Racing), and Martin Plowman (A.J. Foyt Racing) all passed their ROPs, ensuring that they’ll be able to take part in “500” practice when it starts this coming Sunday.

Aleshin also cracked 100 laps on Monday, turning 105 on the 2.5-mile oval with a fast lap of 219.170 miles per hour in the No. 7 Honda.

“It was actually harder for me to go slower [in Phase 1 – 10 laps at 200-205 mph] because you had to lift and I don’t like to lift,” the Russian said. “This is so important and it’s all set now for working with the car in practice for the Indy 500.

“This will be the first oval race in my career and how awesome is it that it will be the Indy 500?”

Sage Karam, who announced a “500” sponsorship package this morning with country music label Big Machine and Comfort Revolution, posted the third-fastest time at 218.416 mph but had a mechanical problem develop on his No. 22 Chip Ganassi/Dreyer & Reinbold Chevy.

It kept the 19-year-old from completing the final phase of his ROP (15 laps at 210+ mph), but Karam indicated this afternoon that the matter was no big thing. On Sunday, he’ll get a chance to finish it off.

Hawksworth was fourth-quickest today at 217.936 mph in the No. 98 Honda and chalked up 52 laps. Carlos Huertas (No. 18 Honda) ran 77 laps and topped out at 217.916 mph, while Martin Plowman (No. 41 Honda) hit 217.085 mph in a 90-lap afternoon for him.

“For me, it was massively important to get in the car and dust off the cobwebs and get my feet on the floor,” said Plowman, who is also racing in Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course.

“It’s been more than three years since I’ve driven a car in anger on an oval. Even though I’ve driven pace cars and two-seaters on ovals, it’s not the same. It was nice to remember all the experiences I had in Indy Lights and get a solid confident base in the car.”

Also getting in some work on the oval today was Marco Andretti. The Andretti camp confirmed on Twitter that he was testing aerodynamic components for IndyCar.

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.