NASCAR Race Weekend Central
(Photo: Jim Haines)

Indy 500 Ends with a Bang, a Smile for Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso put on quite the show in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

Qualifying fifth in his first start in the race and in the Verizon IndyCar Series as a whole, the two-time Formula 1 World Champion was a stable face in the top five of the race, leading 27 laps on the day.

Whether it was leading, trailing, passing on the inside or outside, Alonso proved to be adaptable in what turned out to be a wild, attrition-filled 200-lap event.

But the luck ran out when it really counted, as the McLaren-Honda Andretti driver blew a motor with 21 laps to go, ending his day in 24th.

“I heard the noise, the engine friction. Then I saw the smoke,” Alonso said. “It’s a shame, we deserved to at least finish the race. Who knows which position we could’ve been.”

Alonso joined teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball as drivers with engine failures for Honda in the Indy 500.

Despite his early end, Alonso experienced just what he wanted to when he announced he would skip F1’s Monaco Grand Prix to contest the Indy 500: competitiveness.

“I came here to basically prove myself or to challenge myself,” he said. “I know I can be as quick as anyone in a F1 car. I didn’t know if I could as quick as anyone in an Indycar. It was nice to have this competitive feeling. Even leading the Indy 500, really nice feeling.

“I was passing the tower and saw the No. 29 on top of it and and I was thinking is if Zak [Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group] is taking a picture, I want that at home!”

Though he led the event, Alonso was stuck in traffic in the closing stages after pit strategy brought new faces to the front. With tire management becoming a factor, the Spaniard was just starting to fight back before manufacturer reliability ended his day in smoke.

With a stellar effort for his first time, Alonso is open to giving it a second shot in 2018 or beyond.

“I’m not American, but I felt really proud to race here,” he said. “Takuma [Sato, race winner] was a big help also coming from F1, a lot of advice to me. In the last two laps, I was on my knees really pushing for Sato.

“I feel competitive, If I come back, I come back with something I know how I would feel. It would easier the second time.”

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About Zach Catanzareti

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Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.