Photo: IndyCar

Alonso leads ROP/refresher session as several others debut

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INDIANAPOLIS – Fernando Alonso paced the opening practice session for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil – albeit one that only features a handful of the 33 cars scheduled to compete running.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion was back out after arriving Sunday night from the Spanish Grand Prix, and did 35 laps in the session with a best speed of 221.634 mph in the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry.

His Spanish countryman Oriol Servia (technically, he’s Catalan) was second in his first IndyCar running since last year’s Indianapolis 500, when he was in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ third car. Servia, now in the No. 16 Manitowoc Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, clocked a speed of 220.759 mph.

Jones good to go. Photo: IndyCar

Ed Jones was first on the day to complete all three phases of his Rookie Orientation Program. The Dubai-based Brit got through easily and in a total of 48 laps, posted a best speed of 219.288 mph, in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

Jay Howard and Sebastian Saavedra have completed all phases of their refresher program for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Juncos Racing, respectively.

Juncos Racing has debuted. Photo: IndyCar

Both Saavedra and Spencer Pigot completed laps for Juncos in Ricardo Juncos’ maiden run with his Chevrolet-powered IndyCar on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Saavedra did the bulk of them with a best lap of 216.598 mph in 22 laps, while Pigot only did an installation lap in his car.

Harvey’s session is underway. Photo: IndyCar

Rookie Jack Harvey completed the first phase of his ROP program despite a clutch issue for his No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda. Further issues have prohibited him from completing phases two and three as yet.

The fourth member of the rookie group, Zach Veach, is yet to get through ROP. The driver of the No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet was late out, barely out before 2 p.m., owing to late completion of the car’s build.

Additional notes from this morning are linked here.

Buddy Lazier’s chassis is here, and was spotted in the garage earlier today. The Lazier Racing Partners team is building up the car and it remains to be seen when it will first hit the track.

Temperatures have increased from 77 ambient and 106 track this morning to 83 and 122, respectively, later on.

Speeds from this first two-hour session are below, with all cars now available to go on track until 6 p.m. ET.

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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