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F1’s Fernando Alonso to swap rides with NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson in Bahrain

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Slated to “retire” from Formula One at the end of this season, two-time champion Fernando Alonso has said he’d like to try competing in several other racing series in his so-called “retirement.”

He’s already set to compete in 2019 in the World Rallycross Series. There are rumbles he may return to the Rolex 24 Hours.

He’s also has hinted he may come back to race again in the Indianapolis 500.

But in light of a mutual tweet on Friday from both Alonso and seven-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, could NASCAR also be on Alonso’s racing bucket list?

Alonso will get a chance to experience what it’s like to drive Johnson’s NASCAR Cup car on Monday, November 26, one day after Alonso’s final F1 race in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But there’s more:

Johnson will in turn get an opportunity to drive Alonso’s McLaren-Renault F1 car at the same time. Both drivers will swap rides on the Bahrain International Circuit, site of F1’s annual Bahrain Grand Prix.

This won’t be just a couple of laps run and call it a day. Rather, both drivers plan to make a full day of it on-track, learning and experiencing what the other has done throughout their respective racing careers.

“We really want to have a full day to experience each other’s cars and mess around,” Johnson said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

According to NASCAR Talk’s Dustin Long, Hendrick Motorsports shipped a car Oct. 9 to go by boat to Bahrain for Alonso to drive. Johnson said the team “packed the container with plenty of tires and equipment to let him run as long as he wants to get the full experience, and they’re offering that same thing to me.”

Johnson will depart the U.S. almost immediately after NASCAR Cup’s final race of the 2018 season at Homestead Miami Speedway on Nov. 18. Johnson will spend two days at McLaren’s headquarters in Great Britain to try to get acclimated to the open-wheel ride, simulated g-forces and greater downforce in McLaren’s F1 simulator before heading to Bahrain.

Several members of Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports team will also be on hand at the “swap” to assist Alonso.

The experience is already being referred to on social media as #JJxALO.

Check out the great tweet both drivers put out today:

Alonso tweeted out the same post:

This isn’t the first time well-known drivers have “traded” or “tried” other rides:

* Three-time NASCAR Cup champ Tony Stewart and five-time F1 champ Lewis Hamilton did so in June 2011 at Watkins Glen.

* In 2003, Jeff Gordon drove future NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya’s F1 ride at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

* In August 1988, NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine got behind the wheel of Arie Luyendyk’s CART open-wheel race car to run a few laps around Michigan International Speedway.

* NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott was at MIS on the same day Bodine drove Luyendyk’s car. Afterward, Elliott quipped he’d like to try driving an Indy car someday. Awesome Bill got the opportunity three years later, also at MIS, when Elliott drove several laps around MIS in Cheever’s Indy car, hitting a top speed of 210 mph on his fastest lap.

* In early 2002, 1998 Indy Racing League champ and 1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack drove the No. 42 NASCAR Cup Dodge for Chip Ganassi during a test at Daytona International Speedway. The plan was for Brack to drive a few weeks later in the Daytona 500. But sponsorship fell through and Brack never had a chance to fulfill his dream.

Gee, we wonder … given that he’ll soon drive Johnson’s Cup car, what’s on Alonso’s schedule for mid-February?

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Indy Lights: Kyle Kirkwood joins Andretti Autosport

Road to Indy
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One of the Road to Indy’s most talented young drivers will climb another step up the development system ladder this season.

Kyle Kirkwood, the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 champion, has signed a contract to race for Andretti Autosport in the 2020 Indy Lights season. Kirkwood will drive the No. 28 car for the reigning championship team.

A native of Jupiter, Florida, 21-year-old Kirkwood has been incredibly successful in junior formulas over the last few years. He won the F4 US Championship 2017 and won both the F3 Americas and USF2000 titles in 2018.

Driving for RP Motorsport Racing, Kirkwood won 9 of 16 races in his maiden Indy Pro 2000 season last year, allowing him to win his fourth championship in three years and earn the Road to Indy scholarship.

“We are very excited about the addition of Kyle to our Indy Lights program,” Andretti Autosport CEO and Chairman Michael Andretti said. “We’ve followed Kyle’s career from when he started in 2018 with the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and have been impressed with his success in every race that led to his Indy Pro 2000 Championship last year. As a championship-caliber team, Kyle displays the desire and talent that we look for in our drivers and are excited to see him hit the track for the 2020 Indy Lights season.”

Kirkwood previously drove for Andretti in a two-day test session at Sebring International Raceway in December. He will make his official debut for the team in the season-opening doubleheader at St. Petersburg on March 14-15.

“I am ecstatic that I can now say I am competing in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport this season,” Kirkwood said. “They have established a winning program in Indy Lights and we plan on carrying that reputation throughout 2020.

“We are a fantastic match for each other and our Sebring test in December proved that.”

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