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Indy 500 notes: Alonso arrives; ROP, refresher test underway

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INDIANAPOLIS – The first day of official practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is underway.

Here are notes gathered from the track and paddock (Gasoline Alley) so far.

  • Fernando Alonso arrived in Indianapolis last night straight from Spain for the Spanish Grand Prix, where he was greeted by fans at the Indianapolis airport. In his first run through the paddock this morning, dozens of fans at least stood outside his garage, awaiting the chance for his autograph. Alonso has been signing; here’s a photo from Trackside Online at close range, and here’s one from me from further range. Besides Alonso, McLaren’s Zak Brown and Eric Boullier have also made it to Indianapolis. Once the first on-track action began, his pit was more populated than anyone else’s. It’s only the first day of practice and so far, what I’ve seen of Alonso, the people here have a pretty good idea of who he is and will work to mob him at every opportunity.
  • Rookie Orientation Program and refresher testing is underway, which is what Alonso completed on May 3. Drivers have to go through 10 laps of 205-210 mph, then 15 laps of 210-215 mph, then 15 laps at 215 mph-plus to complete the ROP. The three other rookies participating are Ed Jones, Zach Veach and Jack Harvey. Drivers eligible to participate in the refresher program include Oriol Servia, Sebastian Saavedra, Sage Karam, Pippa Mann and Jay Howard. Servia, Karam and Mann were in last year’s ‘500 while it’s been since 2015 (Saavedra) and 2011 (Howard) for the other two. At the start of the session, temperatures were 77 degrees ambient and 106 on track.
  • Jack Harvey’s start to his day in the No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda has gotten off to a slow start with clutch issues. The car has sponsorship from SiriusXM, AutoNation and Gap Guard among other longtime Shank partners.
  • Jay Howard told NBC Sports he was happy to shake the cobwebs off at his first IndyCar running in six years at the Gateway test. As of 12:40 p.m., he had also completed his first phase of his refresher test.
  • Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda for Dale Coyne Racing is now its planned oval chassis, starting today. The team rebuilt the road course chassis for the INDYCAR Grand Prix this weekend, and that chassis is the team’s lone backup car for all three entrants.
  • Buddy Lazier and some members of his Lazier Racing Partners team are here, though as of the first practice time, there was no signage listed above their garage in Gasoline Alley and no sign of the car as yet. It would be a surprise to see Lazier on track today.
  • Bell Racing has 18 of the 33 helmets entered in this year’s field. Full season drivers are Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais, Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal and Ed Jones. Indianapolis additions are Pippa Mann, Jack Harvey, Gabby Chaves, Zach Veach, Fernando Alonso, Sage Karam, Buddy Lazier and Sebastian Saavedra.

More notes will follow throughout the day.

Takuma Sato’s likeness revealed on Borg-Warner Trophy (PHOTOS)

Photos; Walt Kuhn
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INDIANAPOLIS – Rather than the traditional December unveil, this year’s reveal newest likeness added to the Borg-Warner Trophy came Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Takuma Sato got to see the result of the sculpting done by William Behrends and then turned from wax, clay and ceramic into sterling silver on Tuesday evening, as the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil saw his face revealed on the trophy.

Sato took the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda for Andretti Autosport to the win in thrilling fashion this year over Helio Castroneves, denying the Brazilian his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in the process. It atoned for his near-miss in 2012, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team he’ll return to in 2018.

It’s been a whirlwind last week-plus for Sato, doing the podium interviews at the Japanese Grand Prix, reflecting on his Indianapolis 500 triumph, then sharing the victory spoils with another Japanese pilot in Yoshihide Muroya, who won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis this weekend.

Photos of Sato’s face on the most unique trophy in sports are below. This post will be updated following tonight’s full unveil. (All photos: Walt Kuhn)