IndyCar

Fernando Alonso rules out 2019 season in IndyCar: ‘Was never an option’

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Fernando Alonso has made his decision on racing in the IndyCar Series for the 2019 season – and it’s likely not what many expected.

Alonso, who is retiring from Formula One racing at the end of this season, made it clear at Circuit of the Americas, site of Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix, that he will not be mounting a full-time or even part-time campaign in IndyCar next season.

That’s likely much to the dismay of countless fans, not to mention the IndyCar Series.

“I went there (Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama) and tested an Indy car in September just to know how the cars felt like,” Alonso said in an ESPN.com story. “But there was no hidden agenda, no other plan for the future.

“I’ve read people saying this was a setback for me but it wasn’t, because it was never in my plans to do a full IndyCar season, so nothing changed for me.”

What is certain for 2019 for Alonso is that he will drive for Toyota in the second half of the World Endurance Championship, which ends at Le Mans in June.

As a result, he can’t logistically do a full IndyCar season, but doesn’t rule out the possibility in the future, perhaps 2020 at the earliest.

“My program for next year has been clear for me for many months, but we need to put things together, do a crossover of many plans from different series, different companies and when it will always be settled we’ll make the announcement,” Alonso said. “But doing a full IndyCar season was never an option.

“I’ll want to do some IndyCar in the future but not next year for sure. That would mean doing 17 races, all in America, learning the category and the tracks from zero, so that would require a commitment and determination that was never in my plans.”

That, even though speculation was rampant that Alonso was definitely heading to IndyCar in 2019, with teams such as Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as the anticipated suitors for his talent.

The 2-time F1 champ isn’t totally ruling out a return to the Indy 500, but given his WEC pursuit, it may be difficult for him to devote two full weeks to racing (plus potential additional testing) at Indy again. He led 27 laps in his only prior Indy 500 in 2017 before engine failure with 21 laps to go.

The Spanierd hinted a couple of days ago that he would be back in the 500, but hedged that slightly in his most recent comments.

“Doing a race like we did last year, the Indy 500, is something we’re evaluating now but there’s no decision taken, far from it,” Alonso said.

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Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister