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Ed Carpenter says no to potential Fernando Alonso deal at Indy 500

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AUSTIN, Texas – INDYCAR team owner/driver Ed Carpenter told NBCSports.com that he has been approached by a representative of Fernando Alonso to potentially run the 104th Indianapolis 500 but said he will stick to his current plan.

That means Carpenter will field three Chevrolets in the Memorial Day Weekend race, including himself in the No. 20, Rinus VeeKay in the No. 21 and street and road course driver Conor Daly in an extra Chevrolet.

Carpenter does not want to expand to a fourth car for Alonso, a two-time Formula One champion. The Spaniard was set to announce a deal with Andretti Autosport before Honda’s worldwide headquarters in Japan said no to Alonso two weeks ago.

That leaves Alonso trying to line up a deal with a Chevrolet team. Carpenter’s operation seemed a likely candidate, but the owner/driver will not overextend his operation to accommodate Alonso.

“There is one person that has reached out to me about it, but it wasn’t Alonso or anybody that works for him,” Carpenter told NBCSports.com. “It’s been surprisingly quiet. I think it’s because they know we are not positioned to run more than three. We are a two-car team.

“If we doubled the size of our team for May, it wouldn’t be good for everybody.”

What would it take to consider four cars?

“Money, people and time,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said he wasn’t surprised that Honda Japan shut down his attempt with Andretti Autosport because of the driver’s comments about the Formula One engine in 2017. Alonso was part of McLaren, and that team also was prohibited from lining up with Honda.

“It had happened before,” Carpenter said. “The difference is Fernando is separated from McLaren. It was pretty surprising they got that far down the road before they realized it was going to become an issue with how public that dispute had become.”

Team Penske is the top Chevrolet team and will expand to four cars for the Indy 500 with Helio Castroneves’ return. That leaves Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Carlin Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing as the only Chevrolet teams left that could potentially add an entry for Alonso.

Day 1 of COTA test: Because of cold temperatures and steady rain, Tuesday’s first day of track activity at Circuit of the Americas was abbreviated. The track was open for just 10 minutes in the afternoon session, giving teams a combined 35 minutes of track availability.

It was scheduled for seven hours of track action.

There were just 17 total laps run on the wet track, but zero green flag laps were turned. The 17 laps were installation laps under yellow.

Team Penske driver Will Power was on the track and said the new aeroscreen had great vision in the rain, but he had to get used to where the water flowed into the cockpit.

“I wish someone had run in the wet, wet so we could see where the water came in,” Power said. “The aeroscreen is great, but we will get the area where the water came into the cockpit sorted out. We had water leaking from the bottom, but it will be an easy fix.

“It would have been nice to see some cars run the aeroscreen when it was really raining.”

Tuesday’s test was the first time all 25 cars had the aeroscreen installed on the Dallara chassis.

There was a lot of anticipation among the drivers about finally getting back in the race car after a long offseason. Instead, they’ll have to wait another day before getting a chance to try again Wednesday.

The drivers were like a child knowing what they are getting for Christmas but having to wait an extra day to play with that gift.

“It was very tough,” Power said. “We will have a lot of sets of tires to burn up tomorrow. It will be a long day.”

Wednesday’s revised schedule has the track open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central Time with a half-hour break for lunch.

“Yesterday, all the drivers were excited about getting back on the track today,” Pato O’Ward said. “Today, we got one lap.”

Track limits at COTA: When the teams return to COTA for the April 26 AutoNation INDYCAR Classic, INDYCAR officials will be enforcing the track limits in Turn 19. Last year, there were no track limits, and it made for a “wild, wild west show.” Drivers were allowed to use all of the paved area in Turn 19 as part of the course.

This year, lines will be painted to keep teams on the actual racing surface.

“You will get a penalty if you cross it,” Power said.

O’Ward said it will be slower in that area by about 30 to 40 mph.

“When you are in the car, it feels better to not have the track limits, but it looks ridiculous,” O’Ward said. “You have to follow where the track goes.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

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Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

FERNANDO IS HERE: Alonso arrives for Indy 500

“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”