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After making run at Indy 500 pole, Alonso to start fifth

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso spent will start fifth in his Indianapolis 500 debut next weekend.

He finished with a four-lap average of 231.300 mph in qualifying Sunday – after making an engine change.

The Spaniard was the first driver to top 231 on all four laps. It’s the first time he’s competed on an oval.

“He’s proving why he’s one of the best in the world,” Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi said afterward.

Rossi ended Alonso’s hopes of becoming the first rookie to win the pole.

For a few minutes, Alonso was on top of the IndyCar world.

As the third of the nine drivers to make an attempt in the pole shootout, he became the first driver all weekend with a final speed over 231. That was the fastest qualifying run since Helio Castroneves won the pole in 2002 at 231.725.

It only survived through one more attempt.

Rossi went 231.487 to briefly take the top spot. That number held up through one more attempt and then New Zealand’s Scott Dixon’s before took the pole with the fastest qualifying speed (232.164) in 21 years.

But for Alonso, whose crew had only two hours to install a new engine and put the car back together before making the technical line deadline, it was an incredible afternoon.

“There’s nothing really to say about it because everything felt normal,” Alonso said when asked about the engine.

It sure didn’t give him any trouble.

Neither did Indy’s usually tricky track.

After only his eighth day on an oval, Alonso managed to put himself in contention for next weekend’s race win – with a chance to claim the second jewel in racing’s triple crown from the middle of the second row.

He was hoping to become the first rookie to win the Indy pole since Teo Fabi in 1983.

Former IndyCar driver Tony Stewart started from the pole as a rookie in 1996 after Scott Brayton, the pole-winner, was killed in a practice crash.

More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”