Track Talk: Long Bea...Alonso to the Indy 500!

track-talk

April 13th, 2017.

This week’s edition of TrackTalk was supposed to recap the Long Beach Grand Prix. I should be talking about James Hinchliffe’s win, Sebastien Bourdais’ second podium in as many races, or the abysmal day Will Power and the entire Andretti Autosport Team had. I was going to write about that until IndyCar dropped the biggest bombshell since Nigel Mansell quite Formula 1 (as champion) to join IndyCar. If you’re reading this article then you probably already know- current McLaren Formula 1 driver and two-time champion, Fernando Alonso, is going to SKIP the Monaco Grand Prix and run the Indy 500 for Andretti Autosport.

Fernando Alonso’s resume in a nutshell: A two-time Formula 1 champion with the Renault team, Alonso got his start with Minardi back in 2001 at the age of 19. He won his first race two years later, and the first of his back-to-back championships in 2005. Apart from Minardi and Renault, the McLaren driver has also raced for Ferrari. Alonso has amassed 32 wins, 22 pole positions, and 97 podiums. He ranks 6th on the all-time Formula 1 win list, and 3rd among active drivers.

Alonso made his Indy 500 intentions known last year: While IndyCar CEO, Mark Miles, told Racer.com that this deal came together quite quickly, Alonso inadvertently (or purposely) tested the waters last summer when he openly quipped in Motorsport Magazine that he wanted to win the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It didn’t fall on deaf years, as Chip Ganassi expressed interest on Twitter.

History is on his side: What are the odds that a Formula 1 driver racing for Andretti Autosport will win the Indy 500 in their first start? Pretty good when you consider that Alonso’s taking the same path that last year’s winner, Alexander Rossi did.

Alonso is skipping Monaco: This alone is HUGE. Every racing series has its crown jewel, and the Monaco GP is to Formula 1 as the Indy 500 is to IndyCar. Both races are happening on the same day, and Alonso is effectively leaving the biggest race of his day job to fulfill a personal ambition. The last time this happened? Jim Clark, back in 1965. He went on to finish 2nd.

Andretti Autosport has a history of cultivating rookie success: Rossi’s win is the best example of what a rookie can do in Andretti Autosport equipment at the Indy 500. But let’s not forget that NASCAR champion, Kurt Bush, raced his way to a 5th place and rookie of the year honors, while Marco Andretti finished second (and captured rookie of the year honors) back in 2006. And who could forget Carlos Munoz who, while still a full-time Indy Lights driver, finished second as a rookie back in 2013.

Victor Genova is the host of the Media People Podcast and a freelance racing writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @VicGenova