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Column: Could Alonso’s win at Le Mans be final check box before coming to IndyCar?

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By being part of the winning premier team in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Fernando Alonso not only made a statement, he also potentially ratcheted up predictions about his future.

His Le Mans win adds to two previous Formula One championships and two wins at Monaco. Sure, he competed in the 2017 Indianapolis 500, but fell short of taking the checkered flag.

And with so many rumors already in the web-o-sphere that Alonso and McLaren will be moving to the Verizon IndyCar Series next season, Sunday’s Le Mans triumph only furthered the likelihood that he will soon put places like Monaco, Melbourne, Shanghai, Singapore, Spa, Suzuka and Abu Dhabi in his rearview mirror for good.

Next likely destination in 2019: places like Indy (again), Texas, Sonoma, St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Toronto straight ahead for the soon-to-be (July 29) 37-year-old Spaniard.

If Alonso does make the move to IndyCar, it would not be for publicity or glory. Rather, it’d be about competition. After winning the F1 crown twice, and now having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, there’s not a whole lot new for Alonso to accomplish.

With the exception of within IndyCar, that is.

Coming up short at Indianapolis in last year’s 500 likely still gnaws at him. He also took part earlier this year in his first-ever Rolex 24 At Daytona.

What better way to do something he has never done than to win an IndyCar championship, as well as an Indy 500 victory and potentially adding a Rolex 24 to his triumph at Le Mans.

He’d also have the potential of joining a very elite class of drivers that have won both the F1 and IndyCar titles, including Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jacques Villeneuve and Mario Andretti.

Up until the time Alonso won Le Mans, it was anyone’s guess if he would come back to the U.S. to take on the best in the IndyCar Series.

But now, he has everything to gain and essentially nothing to lose. Officials with McLaren, the team he drives for in F1, have hinted just as strongly as Alonso has that it will also come to IndyCar in the near future, perhaps as early as 2019.

What’s more, McLaren’s boss, Zak Brown, founded the former Just Marketing Inc., one of the premier motorsports marketing firms (acquired in 2013 by Chime Communications Limited), that is still based in Indianapolis and has a number of IndyCar drivers and sponsors as clients.

Brown has just as much incentive to return to Indy and the IndyCar Series as Alonso. Brown is the money man and Alonso is the guy behind the wheel.

It’s a marriage that makes total sense for everyone involved.

And if it does happen, everyone also becomes a winner, including Brown, Alonso, IndyCar and particularly IndyCar fans. How many of the latter would love to see Alonso compete in IndyCar on a regular basis against the likes of defending Indy 500 winner Will Power, defending IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe and so many more of today’s stars in the sanctioning body.

Even though his F1 championships came in 2005 and 2006, Alonso showed last year in the 500 that he still has plenty of talent left in his gas tank. And, to a point, he may be more suited for IndyCar racing than he still is in F1.

You could also make an argument that after 298 races, 32 wins and 97 podium finishes, maybe Alonso has grown tired of the F1 grind. Why else would he want to try his hand at Indy last year, the Rolex in Daytona this year, as well as this past weekend’s first-ever effort at Le Mans?

He welcomes new things, things he has never done before. Ergo, IndyCar is right in his wheelhouse, so to speak.

Up to this point, Alonso has been rather coy about whether he would consider coming full-time to IndyCar. He’s alluded to when the time and timing MIGHT be right.

He’s also said he still has a commitment to McLaren in F1 – at least through the remainder of this season.

But that’s not a guarantee by any means.

Yet with the win at Le Mans, the needle may have finally moved a few notches closer for Alonso coming to IndyCar, Indy and the like. He may have checked off the final check box he needed to before making a career change.

Let’s put yourself in Alonso’s place and think about this: If you’ve done everything there is to be done, you’re racing for a F1 team that is a mediocre seventh and nearly 100 points out of first place in the standings still with nearly two-thirds of the season remaining, and you haven’t won an F1 race in more than five years (2013), wouldn’t you be primed for a change?

Do you stay the course and hope and pray that a miracle will turn things around (likely won’t happen this year), or do you finish the F1 season and move on to what could be a promising second career overseas?

The choice is fairly obvious.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.