Fernando Alonso Will Be the Star of the Indy 500


Want to one up the 100th Indy 500? Here’s how.

The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 was always going to be a nightmare to follow. America’s defining speedway, 100 years in the making, raised in lockstep with the automobile industry, birthplace of legends new and old—Foyt, Mears, Franchitti, Andretti, and dozens of others, was treated to a fine centennial celebration last May.

It was so good, in fact, that we openly questioned if the grand spectacle all but ensured this year’s 101st Indy 500 would be doomed by normalcy–lost in the long shadow cast by 2016. Thankfully, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles shared the same concerns and pursued a solution that would bring a global audience to the Speedway.

Enter the seemingly unbelievable presence of two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso, brought forth by his McLaren team and its engine partner Honda to drive for the defending Indy 500 winners at Andretti Autosport. The new relationship, motor racing’s version of a two-week fling, satisfies the needs of all parties.
For Miles and IndyCar, it gets the best driver in the world (argue among yourselves) and what is craves most: the rabid interest of the F1 world and media. Alonso gets to achieve a personal dream by racing at the Indy 500; the beleaguered McLaren F1 program goes above and beyond to give its star driver an incentive to stay with the team, and Honda Japan—through its American Honda Performance Development arm—throws Fernando a bone by facilitating his speedway fantasy with the team, engine and aerodynamics that made the most recent trip to Victory Lane.

The 2016 race was remarkable for the milestone it represented, yet lacked new or noteworthy figures within the field of 33 drivers. The 100th had a compelling angle with the return of James Hinchcliffe who earned pole position after nearly losing his life 12 months prior in a wicked crash, but as history will attest, the race itself was the star.

With Alonso entering the frame, Miles has captured the singular star of the next event—an individual who can stoke new flames of interest on a scale that surpasses anything IndyCar’s full-time drivers might offer.

Barring the presence of NASCAR monoliths Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr, or recent retirees Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, it’s hard to imagine a bigger draw for the 500 than Alonso. It’s the right driver at the right time in his career—especially as he heads to Bahrain this weekend at the bottom of the F1 championship standings—with nothing to lose by trading the same late May weekend in Monaco for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Will the Indy 500 receive a healthy pop in international viewership and media coverage as a result of bringing Alonso across the pond? Without a doubt. And will F1 fans from around the globe—at least those who aren’t in Monaco on May 28—book flights for Indianapolis to watch a once-in-a-generation talent chase a once-in-a-lifetime feat of winning the Indy 500 on debut?

Get your tickets to the Fernando Alonso Show now.

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