IndyCar

Helio Castroneves is fastest in first full Indy 500 practice session, Danica is 18th fastest

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If there was any doubt that Helio Castroneves is bound and determined to earn a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 victory this year, he quickly put that to rest Tuesday.

Castroneves consistently had one of the fastest cars throughout the first full day of practice Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 102nd Running of the 500 on May 27.

That included being fastest in the third and final practice session of the day – which for the first time included 34 of the 35 cars entered in the race – with a top speed of 224.665 mph.

“We started right away with a good pace,” Castroneves said. “Good job, everyone, running issue-free.

“We still have a long way to go, but it was a very base test with the new car actually with traffic and everything. Looking forward to another day tomorrow.so we continue to work and pursue that right result.”

Ed Carpenter was second-fastest (224.523 mph), followed by Jay Howard (224.518), Scott Dixon (224.353) and Marco Andretti (224.217).

Carpenter also had the fastest non-tow time of all drivers on-track.

“It was kind of a weird day – I almost feel like this is Day Two for some reason,” Carpenter said. “I was pretty happy starting off. As we always do around here, we made changes to try and get better. We probably got a little worse, then we finally got onto some things at the end of the day.

“That’s why we have to keep working out here and try to get the feel for what we want. All in all, it was a good first day. I need to go talk to my teammates and compare what we all got in to over the course of the day. For Day One, it’s a good start, but I feel like there’s a lot more in the car, too!”

Ed Carpenter during practice for the Indianapolis 500. Photo: IndyCar

Sixth through 10th were Sage Karam (223.998), Charlie Kimball (223.921), Gabby Chaves (223.640), Zach Veach (223.551) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (223.488).

Howard recorded the most laps of practice (69), followed by 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (68), Jack Harvey (67) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (66).

The three-hour session was interrupted for about a half-hour due to rain, but was able to resume to complete the first day’s activities. Practice on Wednesday runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

As for other drivers of note in Tuesday’s practice:

* Defending Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato was 13th-fastest (223.305 mph).

* Simon Pagenaud was 14th (223.284 mph) fastest in the final practice. He was also the fastest driver overall for the day, recording a speed of 225.787 mph in the morning session. Castroneves’ afternoon speed was the second-fastest overall for the day.

* Danica Patrick was 18th (222.728 mph).

* Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix winner, Will Power, was 22nd (222.495 mph).

* James Hinchcliffe, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal all struggled, scoring 25th (221.900 mph), 26th (221.852) and 27th (221.671 mph) respectively.

* Rookie Matheus Leist was the only driver who failed to get on-track during either the morning or afternoon sessions. It’s unclear what the reason was, whether it was illness or something else, but a tweet from A.J. Foyt Racing said Leist will be back at-track on Wednesday.

Speaking of Leist, we thought we’d share this “coaching video” where Tony Kanaan — dressed as Leist (and with hair!) because he was missing — talked about the advice Kanaan “gave” Leist about competing in the Indy 500.

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Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

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