Like a sponge, Alonso soaks up information. Photo: IndyCar

Alonso’s second day at Indy ‘happier than the first day’

1 Comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Fernando Alonso’s had quite a 24-to-48-hour period.

He’s gone from qualifying in seventh place for the Spanish Grand Prix to finally finishing his first race of the season a day later, to then flying to Indianapolis and beginning the now two-week odyssey in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

And as for how long it took to re-acclimate from his McLaren Honda Formula 1 chassis to his No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti IndyCar?

“It took one corner,” Alonso deadpanned, to a media center full of amused onlookers.

Alonso only completed 55 laps today – 35 in the two-hour Rookie Orientation Program/refresher program and 20 in the afternoon session – and later explained that he was not able to complete his full program owing to rear suspension issues. He ran more than 100 in his first day in the car on May 3.

That meant that in “happy hour” – the last hour of practice where conditions start to cool and are generally ideal for race preparation – Alonso’s car was back in the garage and he was unable to get much running in traffic.

Nonetheless, lack of traffic running aside, Alonso said that knowing what to expect from his Dallara DW12 chassis and Honda aero kit and power unit was comforting on a day when conditions were different.

It was significantly warmer today than it was on May 3, by more than 20 degrees ambient and similar range in track temperatures. It was also windier today.

Alonso prepares for an early run. Photo: IndyCar

Alonso explained the differences.

“I was a little bit concerned about the conditions, about the temperature, much hotter today than the test we did here on the 3rd. But no, the car felt good, felt as good as in the test, and I was able to make some setup changes, yeah, without, as I said, losing the confidence in the car. Everything went very smooth,” Alonso said.

“The last half an hour maybe we had some issues with the rear suspension, and we could not complete the program that we was planning to run a little bit in traffic at the end of the day, so we missed that part, but overall it was an amazing day.

“Happier than the first day with the car because I was able to feel some of the setup changes that we were planning in the morning, and yeah, I feel good.

“Not much running in traffic, so still the thing that I need to go through in the next couple of days, so that is something we need to chase tomorrow in the program. But I did two or three laps behind some cars that were going out of pit lane, and it was good fun, so I’m looking forward, and running along is enough.”

Despite the long travels to Indianapolis, and then meeting fans at both the airport and outside his garage in Gasoline Alley, Alonso was immediately reacquainted with his IndyCar once he was back behind the wheel.

“You jump in the car, you are in that sitting position that is different compared to Formula 1. You have this headrest that you have the padding here, so you have no movement at all to look right, left.

“You just remind yourself exactly what you were driving two weeks ago, so you go flat out and you know what is going to happen. So it took really no time to switch on from one to another.”

Alonso also had time to debrief with Mario Andretti, and what was originally just a quick chat then turned into more than an hour worth of conversation.

“Yeah, well, he went to the pit lane just to say hello, but he was — he knew that we were testing at that point, so it was just a formal hello,” Alonso said.

“But later in the garage, lunchtime, we were talking for more than one hour and a half, so we went through many, many things, from Formula 1 to talk about the tires here, how they perform, to talk about the tires in Formula 1.

“We were talking about the two-seater that he will run on Monday he said, and he’s preparing that run in a proper way, so if I was one of the guests, I will be worried because he will push to the limit that car!

“He’s an amazing person and a true legend in motorsports, so every comment, every word that he says is obviously very, very important for all of us, and inside the team we are extremely proud and happy to work with him.”

Lastly, Alonso seems set to focus on race setup this week, and whether he qualifies higher up the grid or not is not as important as ensuring he has the best possible car in traffic for the race.

“Yeah, it’s completely right. I think in my case, qualifying is not very important,” he said. “Obviously, you know, when you are out there, you want to be fast. You want to feel fast, as well, so it’s a question of enjoyment, not only the position, the final position.

“But yeah, I think all the priority for us in my garage is to set up the car for the race, to feel comfortable in traffic, to learn as much as I can, you know, the way to overtake, the place to overtake, how you lose the minimum time possible in those maneuvers.”

Alonso remains humble to the task as he continues the learning process.

“You know, many things that I don’t know now and I need to learn quickly. So yeah, let’s see what we can do in qualifying, but definitely the race preparation will be the first priority.”

Tony Kanaan says his message of IndyCar-NASCAR unity aimed at fans

Leave a comment

Over a 22-year IndyCar career featuring its share of adversity, Tony Kanaan has learned to embrace trying to find the positives in a negative situation.

He believes NASCAR and IndyCar will find a tiny silver lining from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The series will race together at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course in a July 4 doubleheader, which he believes sends a message of unity he’d like to see from the world during this dark period.

“It’s time to send that message (of unity),” Kanaan told “Happy Hours” hosts Kevin Harvick and Matt Yocum in a Wednesday afternoon interview on SiriusXM’s NASCAR Channel. “If we don’t come out of this situation as better people, globally, in every way, shape or form … it’s just being kind to people. Hopefully, we’ll be sending the right messages, doing radio shows together, doing live on Instagram together, doing races together.

ON NBCSN: IndyCar at virtual Barber Motorsports Park, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson wants to run IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader

“I was bugging Jimmie Johnson to say, ‘Can I be a guest in NASCAR on iRacing?’ I think the misperception, and probably a little our fault as well, is that people don’t know how (IndyCar and NASCAR drivers) respect each and how we think each other’s jobs are so cool.”

It was Kanaan’s comment last week that “it’s not us and them. It is the motorsports world’ that prompted Harvick to ask the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner about his views on past IndyCar and NASCAR divisions.

Harvick noted that “over the years, IndyCar and NASCAR have that separate stigma as far as the fans, but the racers in the middle, we talk with each other. We’re just racers. I think it’s absolutely great” the doubleheader will happen.

Kanaan said he felt it was the right message to send because of the fans. “For drivers, I don’t think we ever thought of it that way,” he said. “We always respected each other and thought each other’s jobs were cool. That tweet was for our fans who say, ‘Those cars are too fast. Those cars are too slow.’ It’s time for us to stop. It’s a racing family.

“For people who don’t understand about racing, any race car is cool. Doesn’t matter if it’s a go kart, a sprint car, a  Cup car, it doesn’t matter. … The situation, we’re in, we’re all equal. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. We’re all in the same boat now. We can’t do what we love. It just clicked. I said it’s time to send that message. Hopefully this will be the end for ‘you guys and us’ for the fans. For drivers, I don’t think we ever thought of it that way.”

The GMR IndyCar Grand Prix is scheduled to be run July 4 on the IMS road course ahead of the Xfinity race, which will mean that the NTT Series’ Firestone rubber will be on the asphalt before the Goodyears of NASCAR hit the track.

Recalling a NASCAR test many years ago at Nazareth Speedway when he turned laps a second faster because there’d been an IndyCar race the previous day, Harvick asked Kanaan whether the varying tire compounds might present a challenge.

“I don’t there is a solution for that,” Kanaan said. “It’s part of the job, and we need to realize that you guys run different tires. We run softer tires. It’s no different than (IndyCar) racing with the trucks at Texas. It’s probably harder on an oval than a road course.

“But I like it. It’s part of the challenge and makes the race weekend more interesting, the people who can manage that as well.”

Even though he is sidelined, Kanaan still will stay busy this weekend, racing in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. IndyCar iRacing Challenge event at virtual Barber Motorsports Park on NBCSN. He will be tuning in Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fox and FS1 as NASCAR hits Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Last Sunday I had my alarm set for 12:40 p.m., because at 1 o’clock (NASCAR was) on,” Kanaan said with a laugh. “I told (wife) Lauren, ‘Let’s turn the TV on and watch the NASCAR race!’ I was excited, and it wasn’t even real. She’s like, ‘Man, look at you … I said, ‘That’s what we got.’ It’s been a weird year.”

Harvick also will be racing Sunday, having recently joined Kanaan in installing a new racing simulator at home.

“Let’s do this Kevin: Come do an IndyCar race on iRacing,” Kanaan said. “I’ll do NASCAR. Now that you have a sim. What do you think?”

“Well, I’ll have to go to my 7-year-old to figure out how to drive it fast,” Harvick said.

“He’s been practicing. I’m really good at crashing.”