IndyCar

Team Penske takes top 3 speeds in opening morning practice for Indy 500

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway is open and the first practice for the May 27 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 is in the books.

Rain briefly interrupted the two-hour session, which ran from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, but cars were back on track in short order once the surface dried and was inspected.

Team Penske dominated the first session with Simon Pagenaud, still searching for his first Indy 500 victory, having the fastest lap at 225.787 mph.

Helio Castroneves, hoping to earn his fourth career Indy 500 victory, which would tie him for most triumphs at the Brickyard with Al Unser, A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears, was second-fastest at 223.445 mph.

Josef Newgarden was third-fastest at 223.229 mph, followed by Marco Andretti in the fastest Honda (223.214 mph), Ed Carpenter (223.124 mph), INDYCAR Grand Prix winner Will Power (222.839 mph), Scott Dixon (222.734 mph), Carlos Munoz (222.584), Zach Veach (222.262) and J.R. Hildebrand (221.620).

A total of 25 of the 35 drivers entered in the 500 took to the track for the first session.

Then, from 1 to 3 p.m. ET, there was a two-hour session for Stefan Wilson, Pippa Mann, James Davison, Oriol Servia to undergo refresher sessions, and Zachary Claman Demelo – who earlier in the day was named to replace the injured Pietro Fittipaldi in the 500 – to complete his Rookie Orientation Program.

Claman Demelo was fastest of the group (220.852 mph), followed by Wilson (218.186 mph), Servia (217.209) and Davison (217.169). Mann did not come out on the track, but is expected to do so for the final practice of the day.

Rain is in the forecast for this afternoon, which could impact the third and final practice of the day, which is slated to run from 3 to 6 p.m. ET. In addition to veteran drivers, others expected to take to the track for the first time include Danica Patrick, Robert Wickens, Jay Howard, Sage Karam, Matheus Leist and Kyle Kaiser.

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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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