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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

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.