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Graham Rahal set a track record for the Raceway at Belle Isle Park temporary street course to win the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for this afternoon’s first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Rahal, driving the No. 15 Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, scorched around the 14-turn, 2.35-mile circuit in 1 minute, 13.9681 seconds (114.374 mph). It bettered the record of 1:14.0379 set last year by Simon Pagenaud.

Graham Rahal set a track record for the Raceway at Belle Isle Park temporary street course to win the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for this afternoon’s first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Rahal, driving the No. 15 SoldierStrong / TurnsforTroops.com Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, scorched around the 14-turn, 2.35-mile circuit in 1 minute, 13.9681 seconds (114.374 mph). It bettered the record of 1:14.0379 set last year by Simon Pagenaud.

Helio Castroneves ran a lap of 1:13.8901 (114.494 mph) in the second group but was penalized by INDYCAR for not reducing his speed in the area of a local yellow and had his fast lap negated. Castroneves’ second-best lap in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet of 1:14.0414 was still good enough to be fastest in his group, so he will start outside Rahal on Row 1 in this afternoon’s race.

Qualifying this morning consisted of two groups receiving 12 minutes of track time each instead of the typical three rounds of knockout qualifying seen at Verizon IndyCar Series street- and road-course events.

Source: IndyCar.com

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The diversity and challenge of the IndyCar Series was on full display for this morning’s opening practice at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Five days removed from competing wheel-to-wheel at more than 200 mph on the iconic 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 22 drivers took to the 2.35-mile, 14-turn Raceway at Belle Isle temporary street course to prepare for the only doubleheader race weekend on the 2017 schedule.

Graham Rahal set the pace in the opening 45-minute session with a fast time of 1 minute, 15.3328 seconds (112.302 mph) in the No. 15 SoldierStrong / TurnsforTroops.com Honda. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver, who finished 12th on Sunday in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, finished ahead of a pair of Team Penske drivers on the time sheet – Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden.

"I'm really pleased with the car," Rahal said. "We'll see how it goes over the weekend, but I felt like I had a couple more tenths (of a second quicker) in there easy. ... That being said, I feel like we're in a pretty good spot. I don't want to get too overconfident here but the car seems to be strong."

Castroneves' best lap in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was 1:15.4890 (112.069 mph). Newgarden was third in the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske at 1:15.5384 (111.996 mph).

Takuma Sato, fresh off his historic Indianapolis 500 win, was 12th in the first practice, with a lap of 1:16.1625 (111.000 mph) in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. Esteban Gutierrez, making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the No. 18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, turned 20 laps and was 21st on the chart with a lap of 1:18.2289 (108.144 mph).

Source: IndyCar.com

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Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal swapped top honors in today’s two practice sessions for the Detroit Grand Prix.

Castroneves led this afternoon’s final practice before qualifying for the first race of the Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader weekend. Driving the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, Castroneves clocked a best lap of 1 minute, 15.1511 seconds (112.573 mph) that stands as the fastest of the day.

Rahal led the morning session in the No. 15 SoldierStrong / TurnsforTroops.com Honda (1:15.3328), with Castroneves second. The order flipped in the afternoon’s 45-minute session on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street course, with Castroneves first and Rahal second (1:15.3519).

Alexander Rossi, in the No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda, ran the third-fastest lap this afternoon (1:15.4323) before his car spun midway through the session and made contact with the wall in Turn 8.

“It was just loose in entry, I guess,” Rossi said. “It’s a weird place to spin, especially on entry, so it just got away from me. I don’t think the car is too bad, but that’s a concrete wall there.”

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix provides the only doubleheader race weekend of the 2017 season. Qualifying for the first race starts at 10:20 a.m. ET Saturday.

Source: IndyCar.com

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Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso needed about one hour of track time today to pass his rookie orientation test for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.

“It was fun,” Alonso said during a break on pit road after his No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti car had completed 51 laps just before noon ET. “At this moment, everything looks good. Now it’s time to start the real thing.”

Alonso made quick work of the three rookie orientation phases with 10 laps at 205-210 mph, 15 laps at 210-215 mph and 15 laps at 215-plus mph.

Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti shook down the car, which is painted in classic Team McLaren papaya orange. McLaren is returning to the Indy 500 on May 28 for the first time in 38 years.

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins May 15 with qualifying on May 20-21, so the 35-year-old Spaniard has a lot to learn in a short time. He’s still had to juggle F1 commitments, which has meant an overabundance of travel. Alonso was unable to start Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix due to engine issues and will compete in the Spanish Grand Prix next week.

Although he ranks sixth on F1’s all-time win list with 32 victories and celebrated world championships in 2005 and 2006, Alonso hasn’t won a race since 2013 and his interest in enhancing his racing resume will require him to drive faster than ever before at 230 mph down the front straightaway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A day after preparing in a racing simulator, Alonso said his confidence grew with each passing lap. When the test concluded, shortly after 3 p.m. ET, he had completed 110 laps with a top speed of 222.548 mph.

“I think it’s a good way to start, to build speed,” he said. “It was difficult at (the) beginning to reach the minimum speed. The next stages felt good, not because of the speed but because of the laps. You’re able to fine-tune the lines; upshift, downshift, which gears to use in the corner.

“The simulator is quite realistic. You have the first impression of how it’s going to be. But the real car is a unique feeling. When you have to go flat out in the corner, it’s not the same in the simulator as in the real car.”

Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti, who will field six cars in the race including defending champion Alexander Rossi, liked what he saw from Alonso’s initial experience.

“That was great,” Andretti said. “He did everything he was supposed to do. Now it's time to go play a bit. So far, everything is really perfect. We had one trim we started with, so we have a reference of where we need to go.

“He gets it. He's one of the best in the world and you can see why. He had a little bit of understeer in that run and he adjusted his line because of the understeer. He's the real deal. I think he's going to be really strong this month.”

Three generations of Andretti racers – Mario, Michael and Marco – as well as Rossi and 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran were among those giving Alonso advice. Mario won the 1969 Indy 500, Michael has celebrated four Indy 500 victories as an owner in addition to leading the most laps (431) without winning as a driver and Marco was a rookie runner-up in 2006 and is in his 12th season as a Verizon IndyCar Series regular.

“The team has been amazingly helpful,” Alonso said. “Running alone is quite OK. We'll see in the next weeks. So far a good experience. Now is the real deal.”

Marco Andretti said cooler track conditions, with ambient temperatures in the low 50s, combined with Alonso the only driver on track provided an ideal setting for the initiation. Alonso kept churning out laps amid a threat of afternoon showers as darker clouds drifted over the speedway.

“With this level of downforce, this is like race downforce, when there’s no traffic and you’re by yourself, it’s just stuck,” Marco Andretti said. “The front and rear are stuck right now, which is what you want for the first run.”

And what of sorting out the input from so many voices?

“He’ll have to learn by fire from a lot of it,” Marco said. “But he’s asking the right questions.

“He’ll be fine. He’s a race car driver. He’ll leave today pretty confident.”

 

         

 

 

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