The Indianapolis 500 has attracted another world champion to its driver field, as Fernando Alonso, Formula One's two-time champion and three-time runner-up, will compete in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 28.
Alonso will drive for Andretti Autosport, which has won four Indianapolis 500's, including last year's race with rookie Alexander Rossi at the wheel of the Honda-powered Dallara. Honda also powers Alonso's car.
"I'm immensely excited that I'll be racing in this year's Indy 500 with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport," Alonso said. "The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivaled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix."
Alonso has 32 grand prix victories and 97 podium finishes in 275 F1 starts. Competing in his 15th F1 season, Alonso became the youngest champion in series history in 2005 at age 24 and backed it up with another title the following year.
Alonso becomes the ninth driver to enter the 500 with a world championship on his resume. In recent years, Nigel Mansell's participation in 1993 as the reigning F1 champion was the most celebrated. Mansell finished third.
Alonso's decision to join this year's 500 field adds to the momentum of the race. Last year's 500 was sold out for the first time in history and broke attendance marks. The Verizon IndyCar Series has seen television ratings increases each of the past three years, a combined 55 percent, and Alonso's participation should provide an even greater spotlight on month of May activities.
Alonso has never raced an Indy car before or driven on a superspeedway, but Andretti thinks the talented 35-year-old driver can overcome that inexperience with the amount of track time afforded competitors in May. Practice for the 101st running of the 500 begins May 15. Qualifying is May 20-21.
"I'm confident that I'll get to grips with it fast," Alonso said of the transition to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the 500. "I've watched a lot of Indy car action on TV and online, and it's clear that great precision is required to race in close proximity with other cars on the far side of 220 mph. I realize I'll be on a steep learning curve, but I'll be flying to Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix (May 14), practicing our McLaren/Andretti car at Indy from May 15 onwards, hopefully clocking up a large number of miles every day.
Andretti Autosport has won the 500 with four drivers: Tony Kanaan (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014) and Rossi (2016).
TEAM PENSKE STATEMENT ON NASCAR APPEAL
Team Penske issued the following statement regarding its appeal:
"While we are disappointed in today's results, we plan to immediately request a final appeal hearing as outlined in the NASCAR rulebook. While the appeals process runs its course, we will continue to move forward and our focus will remain on getting prepared for the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway."
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services