Disgusted with his current team in Formula 1, Fernando Alonso hopes to salvage his racing season later this month at the Indianapolis 500.
The series crossover means the two-time world champion will skip the biggest F1 race of the year at Monte Carlo to drive in IndyCar’s biggest event. The move already has generated a lot of worldwide attention, including NASCAR drivers.
“I don’t have much advice for a Formula 1 world champion,” Kurt Busch said. “I think he’ll be perfect for the situation. I think he’ll do really well. He’s a racer. He gets it. It’s a perfect time in his career to make the attempt at the Indy 500 without having any other oval-type experience that we know of.”
Busch, a 17-year NASCAR regular and 2004 champion, finished sixth at Indy for Andretti Motorsports in 2014. Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and John Andretti also have double-dipped at the 500 during their NASCAR seasons by driving 500 miles at the Brickyard during the day, then returning to their regular jobs with 600 miles at night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Alonso’s appearance, however, is different because he’s going to skip one of the world’s premier races, Monte Carlo, for another. It’s not often a driver takes time away from his day job to moonlight in another series, but the Indy 500 is a jewel like no other. And with the way his F1 season has started with McLaren, he probably won’t miss it.
The season reached a new low Sunday when Alonso’s Honda engine broke down on the warm-up lap. In four starts, the Spaniard hasn’t scored a single F1 point.
He’s already spent time at Andretti’s shop in Indianapolis driving a simulator, and he was scheduled for an IndyCar test at Indianapolis on Wednesday. He will return to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14, then come back to Indianapolis to start preparation for the 500-mile main event on May 28.
No matter what happens at Indy, it won’t make up for the miserable F1 season. If nothing else, the Indianapolis 500 is a welcomed distraction.
“It’s good to have Indy in my head, and there are many other projects going on which keep my head busy. But my life is Formula 1 and my dreams are in Formula 1,” Alonso told SkyNews.com. “We need to find a way to improve. It hurts.”
Danica Patrick is one of a handful of drivers who’ve raced in NASCAR and IndyCars at different times in their careers. She insists crossing over to NASCAR is the most difficult transition.
“I feel like with Indy cars you could show up with a car if you are equipped to build and make a nice car, then you could be competitive,” she said. “But in NASCAR, I don’t see that being even possible for someone to just show up with a car. There’s too much evolution of the tricks and bells and whistles and all the things it takes to be fast in stock car racing that you wouldn’t know.”
Although Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt were IndyCar regulars who enjoyed success in selected stock-car races – both won the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 – many other IndyCar regulars have struggled.
Sam Hornish Jr., Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya all won the Indy 500 before moving over to NASCAR. Montoya won two road course races in 255 career Cup starts, while Hornish and Franchitti never found victory lane in 177 combined starts.
“Stock-car racing is hard, but it’s also as in being a driver it’s tough, but it’s also really hard from a lot of other perspectives,” Patrick said. “It’s about having all your ducks in a row. You’ve got to have the right people, the right effort, the right belief, the right everything, luck on your side. The stars have to align in NASCAR.”
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson wants to stick with NASCAR. Dedicating time and effort into an IndyCar race would take too much away from his family and his duties in the No. 48 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports.
“For me, no, my window has closed. I was looking into it seriously years ago,” he said.
Johnson also has concerns about the open cockpits of an IndyCar.
“Until IndyCar decides to put some kind of roof on their cars or protect the driver’s head, it’s out of the question,” he said.
But like the rest of the racing world, Johnson is eager to see how Alonso fares at Indianapolis.
“But (I’m) excited just to see what happens just as a fan of all forms of motorsports,” he said. “I have always been a fan of Alonso. It’s been very entertaining on and off the track. I love his tenacity.
“I’m shocked to see that he is going to able to pull it off and eager to see how he does. I think we all wonder how different drivers would fare in different series, and I think it will be very cool to watch.”