Live Blog for the 98th Indianapolis 500

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3:08 p.m. ET: This will be the end of things here on the Live Blog. We’ll have more on the finish of the 98th Indianapolis 500 coming up shortly on MotorSportsTalk, and plenty of post-race stories to follow…

3:01 p.m. ET: A furious finish is in store at the 98th Indianapolis 500 after Townsend Bell crashed in Turn 2 just after INDYCAR threw a yellow for debris in the vicinity.

That yellow then switched to a red flag due to the size of the debris field, and the race has been stopped with nine laps remaining. The decision was met with cheers from the crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ryan Hunter-Reay took the lead from Helio Castroneves with 15 laps to go and remains up front. Castroneves, who is seeking his fourth ‘500’ win, is in second, followed by Marco Andretti in third, Carlos Munoz in fourth, and Juan Pablo Montoya in fifth.

As for NASCAR star Kurt Busch, a strong second-half run has put him in sixth place as he hopes to head off to tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte with a great result.

2:46 p.m. ET: Scott Dixon has slammed hard into the outside wall in Turn 4 while running near the Top 5, ending his bid for a second Indy 500 title.

After making his first impact on the outside wall, Dixon slid into the inside wall on the front-stretch, as cars behind him dodged his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and the debris flying from it. While that incident played out, Martin Plowman ran into the back of Josef Newgarden as they headed for the site of Dixon’s accident.

The leaders pitted for what should be the final time under the caution, and it was Ryan Hunter-Reay that won the race off of pit road. Ed Carpenter was second off, while NBC Sports’ IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell was third off in his KV Racing Technology machine.

The trio restarted in that order at Lap 175, but James Hinchcliffe went to the inside of Carpenter going into Turn 1 as Bell went to their outside. Hinchcliffe and Carpenter wound up making contact and both went into the Turn 2 wall.

Under the yellow, Hunter-Reay leads Bell, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, and Takuma Sato.

2:24 p.m. ET: With 51 laps to go, the 98th Indianapolis 500 finally saw its first caution flag of the afternoon as Charlie Kimball got loose and spun on his own coming off of Turn 2. That came one lap after he was able to make a major save while battling with Takuma Sato.

With 48 laps remaining, Marco Andretti led Ryan Hunter-Reay and the rest of the leaders to the pits for a crucial round of stops. But the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion was able to win the race off pit road over Andretti.

Hunter-Reay and the leaders settled in behind pole sitter Ed Carpenter, who stayed out after pitting a few laps before the Kimball caution on Lap 145.

The Indiana native brought the field back to the green flag at Lap 157, but Hunter-Reay charged by him going into Turn 1. Carpenter re-claimed P1 at the same corner on the next lap, only to have Hunter-Reay shoot past him again at Lap 159.

With 40 to go, your Top 5 is Hunter-Reay, Carpenter, Andretti, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves. But a final stop is still on the way…

2:02 p.m. ET: Juan Pablo Montoya appeared set to win the fuel mileage game today at the Indianapolis 500, but the Colombian drew a pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road following his stop at Lap 132.

Before the most recent cycle of green-flag stops, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves both spent time at the front; Castroneves took the lead from Hunter-Reay on the inside of Turn 1 at Lap 107, but nine laps later, the American returned the favor going into Turn 3.

As those two drivers swapped the point, contender Ed Carpenter had to make an unscheduled stop at Lap 116 due to blistering on his right-rear tire.

On Lap 123, Castroneves pitted from second place under green but had a slow stop and lost precious seconds. Hunter-Reay followed him in soon after and came up with a clean stop, but as the cycle played out, Montoya once again was able to stretch his fuel a few laps longer.

But then came his penalty from his Lap 132 stop, which was called five laps after his Penske teammate, Will Power, was also hit with his own speeding penalty.

At cycle’s end, it’s Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Castroneves, Carpenter, and Scott Dixon running as your Top 5. Montoya has now fallen out of the Top 10.

1:35 p.m. ET: Just more than an hour and 10 minutes into the race, the 98th Indianapolis 500 is halfway home, and caution-free.

At crossed flags, Ryan Hunter-Reay leads Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya ran until Lap 99 before pitting the third time; he has consistently run 3-4 laps longer in each fuel sequence.

Scott Dixon is sixth with Will Power seventh, Simon Pagenaud eighth, JR Hildebrand ninth and Carlos Munoz 10th. Rookie Sage Karam, who started 31st, made it as high as eighth but is consistently pitting 4-6 laps earlier on each sequence.

That leaves Montoya, Karam and Pagenaud as the three on slightly altered fuel strategies heading into the second half of this race, which is so far averaging well over 212 mph.

1:15 p.m. ET: Another round of green flag pit stops are in the books, the second of the race. Juan Pablo Montoya ran four laps longer than the rest of the field on that stint and pitted from the lead on Lap 66; Marco Andretti, who had charged to the front, was the leader just before that.

At Lap 70, the top 10 was Castroneves, Andretti, Carpenter, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Power, Pagenaud, Montoya, Hinchcliffe and Karam.

Graham Rahal is out of the car and Tony Kanaan’s chances for a repeat win have been dampened by a 40-plus second pit stop for a rear wing adjustment. TK fell back to P31. Pippa Mann also spent extended time in the pits and lost eight laps.

1:00 p.m. ET: We’re past the one-quarter distance mark, with 50 laps in the books. Will Power took the lead from Carpenter on Lap 37 and has led through the Lap 50 mark, with Carpenter second and his Indianapolis teammate JR Hildebrand now third. Marco Andretti is fourth with Helio Castroneves fifth, Scott Dixon sixth and James Hinchcliffe seventh. Carlos Munoz, Tony Kanaan and NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell completed the top 10.

Castroneves got warned for blocking from Race Control after a chop on Andretti down the front straight; the pair were battling for fifth.

Elsewhere rookie Sage Karam made a ridiculously stout move to the outside of fellow first-timer Mikhail Aleshin for P18, and Rahal parked in the pits with apparent engine issues, and reported a loss of drive.

12:50 p.m. ET: More than 30 laps are in the books and Carpenter, who led until Lap 28, needed to pit first as he burned the most fuel while leading. Hinchcliffe followed a lap later on Lap 29 and a bevy of stops followed from there.

On the reset, lap 33 after the first round of green flag pit stops, Hinchcliffe now leads from Carpenter, Power, Castroneves and Hildebrand.

NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell charged to as high as P12 after starting 25th; his setup is identical to KVRT’s winning one for Tony Kanaan in 2013. Meanwhile Kurt Busch runs 20th. Rookie Sage Karam was the first driver to pit, stopping on Lap 27.

Graham Rahal fell to 32nd as his No. 15 National Guard Honda was reported struggling with the rear.

12:33 p.m. ET: We’re 10 laps in. Ed Carpenter has just taken the lead from James Hinchcliffe to mark the first official lead change of the race.

Power’s third with Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, JR Hildebrand, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Carlos Munoz and Josef Newgarden the top 10.

Biggest mover has been Ryan Hunter-Reay from P19 to P11; Townsend Bell has gained seven spots from P25 to P17, and Sage Karam (P26) and Sebastian Saavedra (P27) each gained five spots. Rookie Jack Hawksworth lost six spots to drop to P19 and Kurt Busch is currently 15th.

12:25 p.m. ET: Jim Nabors has sung “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the final time, and we are green for the 98th running. James Hinchcliffe has led the opening lap for the second time in three years, having also done so in 2012.

Second through fifth: Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves.

Slight contact for Ryan Briscoe has necessitated a pit stop for a new front wing. Briscoe, who started 30th, bounced off the wall at the exit of Turn 2 and made slight right front wing damage.

11:56 a.m. ET: Kurt Busch will begin his quest today to run all 1,100 miles of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in just a few minutes. The former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will roll off 12th in his Andretti Autosport Honda for the ‘500,’ and he’s looking forward to tackling multiple challenges.

“[It’s about] just settling in and getting into that race mode, and race mode to me means protecting your car and putting yourself in position to make passes – but not questionable positions,” he told ESPN.

“And there’s pit road – pit road here is one of the toughest in a stock car and very tough in an IndyCar…The guy that makes the least amount of mistakes usually is up close to the front in this race. Sometimes, it’s not the fastest car.”

Kurt Busch and family waiting on the Indianapolis 500 grid. #indycar

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11:30 a.m. ET: Welcome to MotorSportsTalk’s live blog for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500. My colleague Chris Estrada and I will be rolling with updates as the race progresses.

Thus far we’ve had the usual parade of bands, vintage cars and celebrities. The pre-race atmosphere is intense and incredible as always, as fans head to their seats and the grid is announced.

Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

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