INDIANAPOLIS — In the four years I’ve been writing as a full-fledged member of the motorsports media, I’ve never written two opinion pieces on back-to-back days.
But then again, in the four years I’ve been a full-fledged member of the motorsports media, there’s not been two stories on back-to-back days as big as Tuesday’s announcement that NASCAR teams will have multiple tire compounds for this year’s All-Star Race at Charlotte, followed by today’s announcement that Fernando Alonso will skip the Monaco Grand Prix to race in this year’s Indianapolis 500 for McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.
My brain is still reeling, trust me.
Like many of you, as well as my colleague Chris Medland (who writes for Racer.com), I didn’t believe the Alonso story at first either.
And then the press release came out, and it started to sink in that this is really happening.
For the first time (to my knowledge) since the legendary Jimmy Clark did so in 1965 (and quite successfully, I might add), a current Formula 1 driver will skip the Monaco Grand Prix to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
That was 52 years ago. Clark won the race that day, and went on to win the F1 championship in a masterful display of driving throughout that year.
Fernando Alonso won’t match Clark’s feat of winning Indy and the world title in the same year — quite frankly because Honda’s F1 package just isn’t capable of contending for podiums, let alone wins — but I do believe his sheer driving ability is on par with the legendary Brit.
That’s why I believe that Alonso can indeed repeat what Alexander Rossi accomplished one year ago, and win the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ as a rookie competitor.
This isn’t the era in which Clark raced, where manufacturer ingenuity was king and it took as much reliability as it did skill and driving talent to win the 500.
No, this is an era where spec cars open the door for miracles to happen and the draft allows numerous cars to stay in contention, lead laps and have a shot to shine among the 33 starters that take the green flag in the most prestigious motor race in America.
When you couple that with a driver who is as highly-regarded for his sheer talent and his ability to pull a car to results far beyond what its capabilities would suggest possible as Alonso is, then it begins to become possible to believe an Indy miracle could happen.
I mean, hey, if Alexander Rossi can win the 500 in his second oval start ever … then it’s not out of the question, right?
Alonso is not afraid to attack, not afraid to go all-out and not afraid to take risks in order to succeed: all qualities that have rewarded drivers in the past at Indianapolis.
I think they’ll reward him in May, as well.
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