Fernando Alonso makes Fast Nine shootout in first qualifying

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INDIANAPOLIS – In his first ever four-lap qualifying attempt for the Indianapolis 500, Fernando Alonso has lived up to the hype – and the potential – he’s displayed this week in the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry.

Alonso’s four laps of 230.337, 230.260, 229.845 and 229.696 mph around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway ensured a four-lap average of 230.034 mph, which held up for seventh and puts him into the Fast Nine Shootout on Sunday, one of four Andretti Autosport cars (out of six) to make it in. Alonso was locked in with three more drivers to run, following ex-Andretti driver Carlos Munoz’s run.

Alonso went through the media bullpen after his run, while track activity was on hold following clean-up after Sebastien Bourdais’ accident.

Working with engineer Eric Bretzman and the rest of the Andretti team, Alonso said he felt comfortable with the setup going into his first single-car qualifying attempt on an oval.

“Well we decided yesterday after some runs that we did and we felt comfortable,” Alonso told NBC Sports. “But today we were talking constantly, all day long. At the beginning with the weather, that creates stress because you only have one attempt, one shot, so you need to put everything right in place from the beginning to the end.

“But we didn’t touch the car. The decisions we made yesterday, we just kept it because we didn’t know what the weather was doing, what the wind was doing, what the temperature is doing, so we said we’ll keep the same. We knew that this worked yesterday so we’ll see it today.”

Alonso described the feel of going through the first of two days of qualifying.

“I think with a normal qualifying, that’s great. The people can see a lot of cars on the track for many hours today and many hours tomorrow,” he said.

“With the weather today, obviously everything changed and it’s still OK. I think you have the possibility today to make some setup changes, to think about how you went, what to improve for tomorrow, and tomorrow to put in that perfect lap we want one day as a driver.”

As for whether he can realistically expect the pole position tomorrow?

“I think we need to see. I think everyone will pick up speed tomorrow after today’s run,” he said.

“We will tune a little bit the car and try to get it a bit more competitive tomorrow. But when I close the visor, you have to be sure I will go for it.”