In a wide-ranging interview with “Trackside” on 1070 The Fan radio in Indianapolis, McLaren executive director Zak Brown has hinted at a few more details to come regarding Fernando Alonso’s upcoming arrival to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Brown, speaking to NBCSN pit reporter and show host Kevin Lee (co-hosts the show with INDYCAR communications head Curt Cavin), said a date has been determined for Alonso’s first test day at IMS in the jointly entered McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport entry but they would wait to reveal it themselves to create a big splash on social media.
“There is, but we are not yet revealing that,” Brown told Lee. “We are working very closely with INDYCAR how can we expose the fans to Fernando Alonso and showcase fun and unique ways to do that live and digitally. I don’t want to spoil that announcement, because we’ll be revealing it to the fans.”
Brown also revealed a few further details about Alonso’s month of May program itself, including whether McLaren personnel directly will be involved in the entry.
“Andretti Autosport will take the lead. Michael will be calling the race. It will be his team over the wall,” Brown said. “We are sending out a small crew to support.
“We have some areas where some of the technology we’ve developed will be beneficial. From everything to the technology on the car to some of our people.
“We’ve got some people with some great IndyCar experience. We can’t detract or remove any effort towards our Formula 1 (effort). It will be people from the factory that will have relevant experience.”
Brown elaborated on McLaren’s longer-term goals for Indianapolis beyond 2017, and said you can expect to see existing McLaren F1 partners adorning Alonso’s IndyCar this year.
“I would like to see the Indy 500 being part of McLaren’s annual racing efforts when we go racing,” Brown said. “We have to make sure we do it competitively; it has to be commercially viable and fits our brand. We feel IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 offer all those things to McLaren.
“I’d say a full season program in McLaren is not yet under full consideration and would be years away because that would be a tall order.”
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.