NASCAR AMERICA: 1-on-1 with the King – and Hall of Famer – Richard Petty (VIDEO)

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As the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 Induction Ceremony (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) draws closer, some of the sport’s biggest figures are starting to arrive for the occasion.

One of them is seven-time Sprint Cup champion Richard Petty, who was part of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural Class of 2010. That group also included NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son Bill France Jr., legendary driver and team owner Junior Johnson, and another seven-time Cup champ, Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Being part of that first class remains a major accomplishment in the eyes of The King.

“That was the name of the game with us – if you ever run a race, you have to win it,” Petty said to NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast from the red carpet this evening. “We were fortunate to get in on the first go-round, and that will always be a big plus on my side.”

With 200 Sprint Cup wins on his resume, it was almost a given that Petty would enter the Hall on his first try. But he told Stavast that five years later, he’s still grateful that he doesn’t have to worry about getting in.

“I’m glad I went ahead and got in, and don’t have to go up against some of those guys that are in now,” he said. “It’s gonna be a really good [Class of 2015]. It’s a real versatility deal across the whole board. It shows from NASCAR’s standpoint…all the different scenarios of what it takes to be in the Hall of Fame.”

For more of Petty’s thoughts, check out his full interview above.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”