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

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”