Razia claims Freedom 100 Indy Lights pole

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Luiz Razia captured his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire win two weeks ago in the second race of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

He’s carried the momentum nicely into the pole position for his first oval start in Indy Lights, Friday’s Freedom 100 (noon ET, NBCSN).

Razia, one of four drivers in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports quartet, went out ninth of 11 drivers and posted a two-lap average of 187.710 mph to claim the pole in the No. 7 car.

Teammate Jack Harvey, who finished on the podium in both GP of Indy races, lines up second in the No. 42 car after his average was 186.573.

The Schmidt pair’s excellent GP of Indy weekend propelled them back into title contention against the dominant pair of Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves, who split the opening four races of the year two wins apiece.

Points leader Veach rolls off fourth, alongside teammate and GP of Indy Race 1 winner Matthew Brabham. Chaves makes it all five in the top five in points starting from the top five positions on Friday.

The remainder of the 11-car grid is Juan Pablo Garcia, Chase Austin, Juan Piedrahita, Alex Baron, Scott Anderson and Zack Meyer. A 12th car, which was set for Emerson Newton-John, was withdrawn at the last minute due to a sponsorship issue.

For Razia, Harvey and Brabham, this will be their first Freedom 100, while Chaves seeks to avenge a narrow runner-up finish in the four-wide affair last year. Veach finished fifth last year, behind the top four.

Entering the weekend, Veach leads the standings with 229 points, with Razia at 224, Chaves on 215, Harvey on 207, and Brabham with 192.

Kevin Lee, Anders Krohn, IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden and Jake Query will call the action on NBCSN tomorrow at noon ET.

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/