Fernando Alonso completes his Rookie Orientation Program at Indy (VIDEO)

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Fernando Alonso has completed his Rookie Orientation Program for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, driving the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his first running. This means he is cleared to participate in the race itself.

It took just 50 laps for Alonso to work through ROP, at a best speed of 219.654 mph (40.9735 seconds) around the 2.5-mile speedway.

The phases of ROP are 10 laps in the 205-210 mph range, then 15 in the 210-215 mph range, then 15 north of 215-plus.

Alonso expressed his first comments to Robin Miller during the IMS/NBC Sports App live stream, hosted by Kevin Lee, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford with Miller on pit lane.

“It was fun! It was a good way to start to build the speed. It was a little bit difficult at the beginning to meet the minimum Now we can put some laps and feel a bit of a the car. Right now the car is driving myself, I’m not driving the car,” Alonso told Miller.

“The laps, with 30 laps, 40 laps in the book, you’re able to fine tune the lines, the upshift and downshifts. At the moment everything looks good. Now we start the real thing.

“I think the feeling of the simulator is quite realistic. The real car is such a unique feeling. It’s not the same in the simulator as the real thing! The real thing, Marco ran it this morning. Running alone is quite OK, we will see in the next weeks.

“It was so far a good experience. Now it starts the real deal.”

Team principal Michael Andretti, who will call Alonso’s race, said Alonso has done well and acclimated to the initial level of downforce.

“It was great. He did perfect. Now we can play a little bit after he looks at data, so he can see what’s on the data compared to how he’s feeling,” Andretti told Miller.

Alonso is set to run again after a quick break but it depends on whether weather will hit the track. Here is the official plan per INDYCAR communications head Curt Cavin:

Interestingly, the 51 laps he completed in this morning session, following Marco Andretti’s shakedown, are more than he has in any Grand Prix this year except for Bahrain (54 laps). At Australia (50 laps), China (33) and Russia (did not start), Alonso did not make as many laps.

Yes, it’s an oval compared to a road course and laps are quicker, but this was by all means a successful first run in the car.

More to follow…

Lucas Oil Late Models, All Star Sprints postpone April events

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In separate press releases, the Lucas Oil Late Model series and the All Star Circuit of Champions announced the postponement of their April schedules.

Both releases cite extended federal social distancing guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the postponements and cancelations.

For the Lucas Oil Late Model series, the extension affects races at Hagerstown Speedway (originally scheduled for April 18), Port Royal Speedway (April 19), Tri-City Speedway (April 24), and Macon Speedway (April 25). The series hopes to resume the original schedule on May 1st at Ponderosa Speedway and May 2nd at Florence Speedway.

Port Royal Speedway’s Rumble by the River, originally scheduled for April 19th, has been postponed until Thursday, August 27th.

The Nininger Tribute at Hagerstown Speedway, scheduled for April 18th, has now been canceled. Also canceled are the Budweiser 50 at Tri-City Speedway scheduled for April 24th and the April 25th event at Macon Speedway.

At this time, races are set to resume on May 1 at Ponderosa Speedway in Junction City, Kentucky. Backup dates have been announced for Ponderosa (September 4) and Florence Speedway (August 12) should they be needed.

The events affected for the All Star Circuit of Champions include Attica Raceway Park’s Spring Nationals (April 10-11), Thursday Night Thunder at Virginia Motor Speedway (April 16), the Tommy Hinnershitz Classic at Williams Grove Speedway (April 17), the Keith Kauffman Classic at Port Royal Speedway (April 18), the Johnny Grum Classic at Bedford Speedway (April 19) and the season’s first visit to Wayne County Speedway (April 25).

Series and track officials are working together to find suitable make-up dates.

“We are all in the same boat with every other sanctioning body and sports league in America right now and we want to be part of the solution and abide by state orders and federal guidelines,” said Tony Stewart, owner of the All Stars in a press release. “Originally, we were going to take a week-to-week approach, but with the stay at home orders in certain states and social distancing guidelines, it made sense to postpone the month of April. We aren’t going to put anyone on the road and at risk until we are given the green light by state and federal officials. Thank you to the tracks for the open lines of communication over the past few weeks. We hope to reschedule as many dates as possible once we are able to return to racing.”

Conditions permitting, the All Star Circuit of Champions will begin their 2020 championship point season on Friday and Saturday, May 1-2, with visits to Lernerville Speedway and Sharon Speedway, respectively.

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