While undergoing his first test for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Fernando Alonso experienced a lot – understanding the downforce, power, engine maps and pit stop in/out procedures.
And that was before he hit two birds, in an inadvertent and unintentional homage to one of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ most recent viral moments, when Will Power flipped the “double birds” – two middle fingers – to INDYCAR Race Director Brian Barnhart at a race in Loudon, 2011.
Power’s impetus came when that race on the 1-mile oval was restarted under rainy conditions. Oval races cannot be run in the rain as wet weather tires are not utilized on those circuits. With Power and others taken out as a result of a mistake from Race Control, Power released the middle fingers and earned a fine.
Alonso, the two-time Formula 1 World Champion, had otherwise had a smooth day, with his only major moment slight moisture interrupting one of his runs this afternoon.
But in his last major run of the day, Alonso’s No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry hit two birds with both his left and right front tires at exactly the same moment.
“I didn’t see that one coming. I saw one bird approaching Turn 3 in the penultimate run. I just lifted and avoided the bird,” Alonso said in the post-practice press conference. “Hopefully I avoid that on the race day. I saved one but not the other two. Those two, I didn’t notice.
“It’s a double bird kill,” added Barnhart, ironically, during the IMS and NBCSN live web stream, as he was in the booth today with NBCSN’s Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.
The moment of impact was captured on video (linked above) and fortunately for Alonso, he was able to escape from the contact unscathed at more than 200 mph.
The same fate could not, however, have been said for the birds. It was racing’s equivalent of when Randy Johnson’s fastball stuck a dove during a 2001 Spring Training game.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson’s team, went on to win that year’s World Series. Could Alonso’s team, Andretti Autosport, pull off the racing equivalent results-wise too, in winning the Indianapolis 500? It remains to be seen.