Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at Homestead

Leave a comment

The final battle awaits.

Four drivers – Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Ryan Newman – will enter Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway with an opportunity to win their inaugural Cup championships.

These four have had their points reset ahead of their final run for glory, and no bonus points for leading a lap or the most laps will be on offer for them. The one that finishes the highest will be crowned champion.

And what a Championship 4 we have. Two of them, Harvick and Logano, were chosen by many to be in this situation when the Chase began in September. Between them, they’ve captured nine wins and have been among the fastest drivers all year long.

The other two, Hamlin and Newman, are underdogs that are still standing. Hamlin has only taken one checkered flag, and Newman hasn’t won at all. But here they are thanks to their own clockwork consistency and setbacks for their Chase rivals.

The quartet has managed to survive all the twists and turns that this post-season has delivered. For them, their hard work has come down to this.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know going into the 10th and final race of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup – the Ford Ecoboost 400…

HOMESTEAD-MIAMI-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

1 – Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.7
2014 Rundown
· One win, seven top fives, 17 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 14.5
· Led 17 races for 313 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· Two wins, four top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 11.2 in nine races
· Average Running Position of 14.0, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 93.4, eighth-best
· 88 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Series-high 826 Green Flag Passes
· 1,406 Laps in the Top 15 (58.5%), 11th-most

2 – Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 106.7
2014 Rundown
· Five wins, 16 top fives, 22 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.2
· Led 22 races for 993 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One top 10; one pole
· Average finish of 20.8 in five races
· Average Running Position of 19.5, 19th-best
· Driver Rating of 71.2, 22nd-best

3 – Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 86.1
2014 Rundown
· Four top fives, 15 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.0
· Led 7 races for 41 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 17.0 in 12 races
· Average Running Position of 13.8, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 84.8, 13th-best
· 696 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· 1,520 Laps in the Top 15 (63.2%), ninth-most
· 426 Quality Passes, third-most

4 – Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.9
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 13 top fives, 19 top 10s; eight poles
· Average finish of 13.3
· Led 26 races for 2,083 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· Five top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 8.1 in 13 races
· Average Running Position of 10.9, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.1, fourth-best
· 83 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 681 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.857 mph, fifth-fastest
· 1,805 Laps in the Top 15 (75.1%), fourth-most
· 398 Quality Passes, sixth-most

5 – Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 103.6
2014 Rundown
· Six wins, 16 top fives, 19 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 12.9
· Led 27 races for 1,540 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One top 10
· Average finish of 17.0 in six races
· Average Running Position of 16.8, 14th-best
· Driver Rating of 80.3, 16th-best

6 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.4
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 14 top fives, 22 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 10.4
· Led 25 races for 922 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One win, seven top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 10.6 in 15 races
· Average Running Position of 12.5, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.5, sixth-best
· 91 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 678 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.852 mph, sixth-fastest
· 1,734 Laps in the Top 15 (72.1%), sixth-most
· 442 Quality Passes, second-most

7 – Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.8
2014 Rundown
· 13 top fives, 21 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 13.4
· Led 20 races for 529 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One win, four top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.5 in 14 races
· Average Running Position of 8.6, third-best
· Driver Rating of 109.8, third-best
· 123 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.160 mph, third-fastest
· 1,984 Laps in the Top 15 (82.5%), second-most
· 364 Quality Passes, 10th-most

8 – Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.7
2014 Rundown
· One win, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 17.0
· Led 15 races for 453 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 21.3 in nine races
· Average Running Position of 14.8, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 93.4, seventh-best
· 122 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 1,579 Laps in the Top 15 (65.7%), seventh-most
· 396 Quality Passes, seventh-most

9 – Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 81.4
2014 Rundown
· Two wins, seven top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.5
· Led 11 races for 135 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· Two wins, five top fives, seven top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 6.6 in 10 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 8.0
· Series-best Driver Rating of 115.5
· Series-high 266 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 162.432 mph
· Series-high 2,057 Laps in the Top 15 (85.6%)
· 382 Quality Passes, eighth-most

10 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 97.7
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.1
· Led 17 races for 383 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 20.7 in 14 races
· Average Running Position of 19.1, 18th-best
· Driver Rating of 76.9, 19th-best
· 134 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 815 Green Flag Passes, second-most

11 – AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Hungry Jack Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 71.1
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 19.6
· Led 5 races for 68 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 15.4 in five races
· Average Running Position of 20.0, 21st-best
· Driver Rating of 77.6, 17th-best

12 – Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 78.5
2014 Rundown
· Three top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.7
· Led 7 races for 110 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· Three wins, four top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 15.2 in 12 races
· Average Running Position of 15.6, 13th-best
· Driver Rating of 88.7, 12th-best
· 103 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 798 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.629 mph, 11th-fastest
· 1,280 Laps in the Top 15 (53.2%), 12th-most
· 302 Quality Passes, 12th-most

13 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.0
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.5
· Led 17 races for 1,310 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· Four top fives, eight top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 14.8 in 13 races
· Average Running Position of 13.0, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.6, fifth-best
· 84 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.978 mph, fourth-fastest
· 1,775 Laps in the Top 15 (73.8%), fifth-most
· 402 Quality Passes, fifth-most

14 – Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.8
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 19.2
· Led 14 races for 219 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One win, four top fives, five top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 19.8 in 13 races
· Average Running Position of 22.9, 25th-best
· Driver Rating of 72.0, 21st-best

15 – Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.3
2014 Rundown
· One win, three top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 17.8
· Led 12 races for 218 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, four top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.2 in 10 races
· Average Running Position of 12.9, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 90.0, 10th-best
· 106 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 763 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.658 mph, 10th-fastest
· 1,470 Laps in the Top 15 (61.1%), 10th-most
· 370 Quality Passes, ninth-most

16 – Aric Almirola (No. 43 Smithfield Foods Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 72.1
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 21.5
· Led 5 races for 23 laps
Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 15.5 in four races
· Average Running Position of 18.0, 15th-best
· Driver Rating of 80.5, 15th-best

source:

source:

Homestead-Miami Speedway Track Data
Race 36 of 36
1.5-mile oval
Banking, turns: 18-20 degrees
Banking, straights: 4 degrees
Frontstretch/backstretch length: 1,760 feet
Race length: 267 laps, 400.5 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Homestead
Carl Edwards, 115.5
Martin Truex Jr., 110.0
Matt Kenseth, 109.8
Kevin Harvick, 99.1
Jimmie Johnson, 96.6
Jeff Gordon, 96.5
Kyle Busch, 93.4
Denny Hamlin, 93.4
Clint Bowyer, 92.7
*Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (9 total) among active drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 177.667 mph (30.394 seconds), 11.15.2013
2013 race winner: Denny Hamlin, TOyota, 130.693 mph (3 hours, 3 minutes, 52 seconds), 11.17.2013
Track qualifying record: Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 181.111 mph, 29.816 seconds, 11.14.2003
Track race record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 142.245 mph (2 hours, 48 minutes, 56 seconds), 11.18.2012

Homestead-Miami Speedway History

· Groundbreaking for Homestead-Miami Dade Motorsports Complex – as the track was originally named – began Aug. 24, 1993.

· The first race held at Homestead-Miami Speedway was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Nov. 5, 1995 – won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett.

· The original configuration was a four-turn, rectangular oval based on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s layout.

· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Homestead was held on Nov. 14, 1999 – won by Tony Stewart.

· 2002 was the first season of the Championship Weekend at Homestead, with all three of NASCAR’s national series holding their season finale at the same track.

Homestead-Miami Speedway Notebook

· Since the inception of the position-based points system in 1975, only four drivers have made up a points deficit in the season finale: Richard Petty in 1979 (made up two points on Darrell Waltrip), Alan Kulwicki in 1992 (made up 30 points on Davey Allison), Jimmie Johnson in 2010 (made up 15 points on Denny Hamlin) and Tony Stewart in 2012 (made up three points on Carl Edwards).

· There have been 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, one per season since 1999.

· 113 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Homestead; 89 in more than one.

· Two drivers have made all 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Homestead: Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon.

· David Green won the first Coors Light pole at Homestead in 1999 at a speed of 155.759 mph (34.669 sec.).

· There have been 11 different Coors Light pole winners, led by Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne with two each.

· Youngest Homestead-Miami pole winner: Joey Logano (11/18/2012 – 22 years, 5 months, 25 days).

· Oldest Homestead-Miami pole winner: Bill Elliott (11/11/2001 – 46 years, 1 month, 3 days).

· Jamie McMurray (November, 2003) and David Reutimann (November, 2008) won their first career Coors Light poles at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

· There have been nine different NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at Homestead-Miami; three have won more than once, led by Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart with three each. Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin (two each) are the only other drivers with multiple wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

· Of the three drivers with multiple wins at Homestead, Tony Stewart is the only driver to win in two different manufacturers: Pontiac (1999, 2000) and Chevrolet (2011).

· Two of the 15 (13.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Homestead-Miami Speedway have been won from the Coors Light pole: Bill Elliott (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002).

· Five of the 15 (33.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Homestead have been won from the front row: two from the pole and three from second-place.

· 10 of the 15 (66.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Homestead have been won from a starting position inside the top 10.

· 5 of the 15 (33.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Homestead have been won from a starting position outside the top 10 – most recently – Jeff Gordon (15th-place starting position; 2012).

· Denny Hamlin won the 2009 race from the 38th-place starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started at HMS.

· Two drivers have won consecutive races at Homestead-Miami: Tony Stewart (1999 – 2000) and Greg Biffle (2004 – 2006, three straight).

· Carl Edwards leads the series in average finish at Homestead with a 6.600; only two other drivers have an average finish inside the top 10: Kevin Harvick (8.078) and Martin Truex Jr. (9.222).

· Roush Fenway Racing leads the series in wins at Homestead with seven, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing with five.

· Youngest Homestead winner: Kurt Busch (11/17/2002 – 24 years, 3 months, 13 days).

· Oldest Homestead winner: Bill Elliott (11/11/2001 – 46 years, 1 month, 3 days).

· Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick lead the series in runner-up finishes at Homestead with two each.

· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at Homestead with seven; followed by Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick with five each.

· Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick lead the series in top-10 finishes at Homestead with 11 each; followed by Jimmie Johnson with eight.

· Eight of the nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Homestead-Miami participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart (1999) is the only driver to win at Homestead in his first appearance.

· Dale Earnhardt Jr. lead the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway without visiting Victory Lane at 14.

· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead was the (4/10/2010) race won by Greg Biffle with a MOV of 0.017 seconds.

· Danica Patrick became the first female driver to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway last season; starting 24th and finishing 20th.

NASCAR in Florida

· There have been 176 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among eight tracks in Florida. 135 of them have been run at Daytona International Speedway, followed by 15 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, 10 at the Daytona Beach and Road Course, seven at Palm Beach Speedway (West Palm Beach), six at Speedway Park (Jacksonville), and one apiece at three other facilities.

· 173 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Florida.

· There have been 10 race winners from Florida in NASCAR’s three national series.
source:

Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup: Homestead-Miami Speedway

· Homestead-Miami Speedway has been a part of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup since the playoff’s inception in 2004. This season the track will host its 11th Chase event.

· The winner of the Homestead-Miami Chase race has gone on to win the championship during the Chase era once: Tony Stewart (2011).

· Greg Biffle leads the series in Chase race wins at Homestead-Miami with three (2004 – 2006); followed by Carl Edwards with two (2008, 2010).

· The worst finish in a Chase race by the eventual series champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway is 15th (three times), Tony Stewart in 2005, Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and Brad Keselowski in 2012.

· Chase Contenders have won seven of the 10 previous Chase races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Two non-Chase contenders have won a Homestead-Miami Chase race: Greg Biffle (2004 and 2006) and Denny Hamlin (2013).

· Four of the 10 previous Chase races at Homestead the eventual series champion has finished in the top five.

· Roush Fenway Racing leads the series in Chase race wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway with six, including five consecutive: Greg Biffle (2004 – 2006), Matt Kenseth (2007) and Carl Edwards (2008).

· Ford leads the series in Chase wins at Homestead with six; followed by Chevrolet with two.

· The most dominant performance by a Chase race winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway is Carl Edwards’ victory in 2010. He posted a Perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 and led 190 of the 267 laps (71.1% of his laps completed) – most by a Chase race winner at Homestead.

Why it’s important for Fernando Alonso to be in the Indianapolis 500

INDYCAR Photo
Leave a comment

It seemed so natural, so logical that Fernando Alonso would be part of McLaren in the 104thIndianapolis 500, it likely could have been announced last August.

NBCSports.com gave all the reasons why an Alonso reunion with McLaren at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made the most sense last week.

Tuesday afternoon, it became official.

Arrow McLaren SP announced the two-time Formula One World Champion as its third driver for the Indy 500. He joins full-time NTT IndyCar Series drivers, rookies Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward, on the Chevrolet team.

In a world where social media allows everyone to voice an opinion, there have been some who have asked, “Why is it so important that Fernando Alonso compete in the Indianapolis 500?”

To back up their point, the 33-driver starting lineup already includes the legendary names of the NTT IndyCar Series. From five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon to three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, to Indy 500 winners Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay to two-time champion IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden, the lineup is full of big names.

On the grand scale of international motorsports, however, Alonso has the charisma and star power that transcends into the mainstream of popularity.

“Having Fernando in the Indy 500 is going to be great for IndyCar, for the Indy 500 and for the fans,” said Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt. “I can’t wait to see that get started.

“On behalf of Ric (Peterson, another co-owner of the team) and myself, Fernando needs to be in the 500, he needs to have an opportunity to win and that would be mega for IndyCar. For all of those reasons, we kept our foot on the gas and tried to position our team as the team of choice. Although we haven’t won, we have shown pace there and ran at the front. Now that we are with Chevrolet, we feel that we can get it done.

“Our team of guys is fantastic. We have been preparing for this for a long time and we are poised to get it done. Ric and I are very excited about this.”

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has a long and close relationship with Alonso. Brown was in charge of Alonso’s Formula One program. Last year when Alonso did not compete in F1, he remained under contract as a McLaren “Ambassador.”

His contract with McLaren ended on December 31, 2019. He officially rejoined the team with Tuesday’s Indy 500 announcement.

“He creates a tremendous amount of attention wherever he goes,” Brown said of Alonso. “When we did the first test at Indy in 2017, the live digital feed got over a couple million followers. Fernando will draw a lot of global attention to Indianapolis, to IndyCar, to our partners and to the sport as a whole.

“He is a great addition. He is an ambassador to the sport. He very much enjoys the way he is embraced in Indianapolis.”

HOW THEY GOT BACK TOGETHER

With so many obstacles in the way between Alonso competing for any other team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it just made sense that his best situation, and only situation, would come with the McLaren-backed operation.

But it was certainly a long, strange trip to get there.

“Clearly, Fernando was deep in conversations with Michael Andretti,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown responded to a question from NBC Sports.com in a private teleconference Tuesday. “Short of Roger Penske’s team, he believes Michael’s team is the most successful team at Indianapolis, certainly in most recent times.

“If you are Fernando Alonso and you want to win Indianapolis, then Andretti is clearly on your short list.

“We had a strong desire to run him. Fernando didn’t want to take a decision until after Paris-Dakar because he wanted to be very focused on that event. He was in no rush. He had two good opportunities. We kept him informed of some of the offseason moves we made. We secured Craig Hampson (as technical director after a successful term as Sebastien Bourdais’ engineer). When he was ready to make his decision, we had all of our pieces in place.

“He chose to move forward with us.”

Alonso’s best days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway came in an Andretti Autosport-prepared Honda. That was in 2017 when the McLaren Honda Andretti team got the Formula One Ace up to speed quickly. Alonso qualified fifth on the grid off 33, led 27 laps and was in contention for the victory before his Honda engine blew up with 21 laps remaining.

Alonso came, he saw, and he nearly conquered the Indianapolis 500.

Alonso’s worst days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway came in a McLaren-prepared Chevrolet. That was last year when one mistake after another showed how unprepared the McLaren operation was to take on the Indy 500 on its own. The list of faux paus was so long and legendary, there is no reason to recount them.

It all added up to one of the biggest names in international motorsports getting bumped out of the 33-car starting lineup by unheralded Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing.

McLaren officials knew the best way to succeed at Indianapolis was to join forces with a full-time IndyCar Series team. The main obstacle in that was Honda teams were ordered by corporate headquarters in Japan that the company’s days of doing business with McLaren were over. This came after disparaging and critical comments were made about the Honda Formula One engine McLaren used during a horrendous 2017 Formula One season.

Under no circumstances would American Honda and Honda Performance Development be allowed to make a deal with McLaren.

Brown found a partner at what was then known as Arrow Schmidt Peterson, but that was a Honda team. In order to make the deal work, Arrow Schmidt Peterson would have to break the final year of its contract with Honda and switch to Chevrolet.

Arrow McLaren SP was announced on August 9, 2019. Alonso was not part of that announcement.

He was attempting to negotiate a deal with Andretti Autosport and the team was willing to make it happen. Sponsors were signed and decisions were made leading to an expected announcement of an Alonso-Andretti combination for the Indy 500.

Honda Japan said no. They were held firm with Alonso for the same reasons they didn’t want to do business with McLaren.

That meant Alonso would have to find a Chevrolet team for the Indy 500. Team Penske wasn’t interested in increasing to five cars at Indy. Ed Carpenter Racing also said no to expanding to four entries.

All paths led back to Arrow McLaren SP.

“It’s a great day in the history of our team,” co-owner Sam Schmidt said. “We’ve had a lot of changes recently. Arrow McLaren SP is a fantastic cooperation of the future of our company. This just raises the bar. Everyone on our team is a true racer, wants to win and wants to win the Indy 500 and the championship. Every move we have made over the last two years has been geared towards achieving those dreams. This is one step further.

“Fernando Alonso, two world championships, two WEC’s, Le Mans and the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. He has made it perfectly clear the Indy 500 is the missing link there. We all know how competitive he was previously.

“For our team, we want to tap into his experience. We have two exciting rookies with Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward. We really think being around him for the month of May will help them raise their game and understand what it takes to be a true, top-level, world-renowned driver. For all of those reasons, we have been working very hard on this for quite some time and we are very excited to announce Fernando Alonso as part of our team for the Indy 500.”

THE TWO SIDES CONTINUED TO NEGOTIATE, EVEN WHEN IT APPEARED ALONSO WOULD GO TO ANDRETTI

Although it appears this deal was put together quickly, Brown and Schmidt emphasized that was not the case.

“Actually, it’s been in the works for quite some time,” Brown said. “Fernando is quite a thoughtful individual when he takes a decision on what he wants to race. Paris-Dakar, from the moment he decided he was interested in it, he wanted to test, he wanted to get to know the car, he wanted to get to know the team and ultimately made his decision. This is something we’ve been speaking to Alonso about for a while.

“The new recruits, specifically Craig Hampson, we had a good test at COTA. These were things as Fernando made his final decision helped get him over the hump. There was speculation he would go elsewhere with parallel conversations that were going on.”

Schmidt was even more decisive in the team’s negotiations with Alonso.

“It seems like a bit of a whirlwind announcement, but we have been talking since November,” Schmidt said. “We’ve always run a third car at Indy. This will be a very, very well-prepared, thought-out deal. Craig Hampson will be the engineer and will be staffed by full-time, quality personnel.

“There has been some talk about the Grand Prix in a preparatory fashion for the Indy 500, but so far, we don’t have that in consideration.”

ALONSO’S THOUGHTS ON HIS RETURN

In a separate interview with Leigh Diffey of NBC Sports, Alonso admitted he had several teams to consider and McLaren was always in that group.

“We had some conversations,” Alonso said. “I already said last year I wanted to explore more options. I’d been talking with Andretti as well and some other teams. Andretti and McLaren are the ones I feel in my heart are like family. At the end, it was the natural choice to go with McLaren, especially after last year and give the fans something back after the disappointment of last year.

“I think McLaren is one of those teams that are part of motorsports. Being in F1 and IndyCar doing all the races. That shows and proves how McLaren is committed to the sport. The fans will love that commitment.”

Alonso has long dreamed of winning the international “Triple Crown” of motorsports. That includes victories in the Grand Prix of Monaco, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.

Alonso behind the wheel of the famed Marmon Wasp, the first winning car in the 1911 Indianapolis 500 — INDYCAR Photo

Alonso has already conquered Monaco and Le Mans. Indy remains the final event to master for the driver from Spain.

“The Indy 500 completes the big three races in motorsports, and three completely different disciplines,” Alonso explained. “It makes you quite a complete driver. That’s what I’m looking for in this stage of my career. The Indy 500 is probably the biggest priority for me now.

“Oval racing is unique, but the Indianapolis Motor Speedway even more. It’s a huge place. All the facilities are quite big. The circuit, there are four corners, but all very different. The traffic, the slipstream, the strategy, the tire degradation. The downforce you run differently from practice. The race, you are adjusting downforce. Even if it seems a simple way to drive, over 200 laps, you never repeat the same line or speed in any laps. It’s quite difficult to adjust the minimum settings in the car.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF RUOFF AS THE SPONSOR

The key to completing the deal was allowing mortgage firm Ruoff to join Arrow McLaren SP after agreeing to back Alonso with Andretti.

“Ruoff is a partner of Michael’s, he’s a good friend of mine and a partner in Australia,” Brown explained, referring to the Virgin Australia SuperCar team. “As he was having his conversations with Fernando, Ruoff was looking for something with big impact and exposure. When Michael and Fernando were unable to get their deal together, Ruoff asked Michael if he would mind going where Fernando goes because they know he will draw a tremendous amount of attention and Michael has all of his title deals done. Michael gave his blessing, he cut a deal with Ruoff, and we are excited to have them with us for the month of May.

“Right now, Fernando is going to be laser focused on the Indianapolis 500. I think he would enjoy IndyCar racing, but he is unsure of what he wants to do in 2021. The door is open, but there are no plans or discussions about racing beyond Indy at this point.”

KEEP THE MILK COLD

Alonso said it feels good to be back at Indy; to have another chance to win the Indianapolis 500. Despite last year’s major disappointment, Alonso is ready to recapture the glory he experienced in 2017.

“Definitely once you experience the Indy 500, it’ll remain always in your heart,” Alonso said. “I think the Indy 500 is on top of all the events I’ve ever participated. The atmosphere, the adrenaline, the traditions all the celebrations before the race. Even the milk! It arrives in a fridge Sunday morning and goes to the Pagoda.

“There are things as a driver you understand the importance of the moment and how big that race is worldwide.”

And that is why it is important that drivers such as Alonso compete in the Indianapolis 500. It’s an event that is bigger than the sport itself.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500