Reports: Honda nixes Fernando Alonso racing for Andretti at Indy 500

Joe Skibinski/IndyCar
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If two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso makes a return to the Indianapolis 500 this May, he won’t be with Andretti Autosport, according to multiple reports.

RACER.com reported Sunday that Alonso and Andretti Autosport were nearing a deal to reunite at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Honda put the brakes on the arrangement. RACER reported that the deal, which also would have included some road-course races, was blocked by Honda’s global headquarters in Japan after being sent for review by Honda Performance Development.

Citing an unnamed source, the Indianapolis Star confirmed the RACER report later Sunday.

The news comes after several years of hard feelings between Alonso and Honda. The engine manufacturer returned to Formula One in 2015 by forming a partnership with McLaren, whom Alonso was driving for at the time.

But the team experienced several poor results and engine performance issues, leading to a widely-publicized incident in which a frustrated Alonso referred to the Honda powerplant as a “GP2 engine” (a reference to F1’s feeder series) over his radio during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix.

Alonso still made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2017 in an Andretti Honda, leading 27 laps before finishing 24th because of an engine failure.

After retiring from F1 in 2018, Alonso returned to Indy with McLaren last year, but Honda reportedly blocked Alonso and McLaren from using one of its engines. Alonso failed to qualify in a Chevy for the 2019 Indy 500. He since has left McLaren after serving as a brand ambassador.

If he is limited to Chevrolet options again for the May 24 race at Indy, Alonso will face a challenge to find a high-profile seat. Team Penske (four cars) and Ed Carpenter Racing (three) likely are at their max entries for the 104th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Arrow McLaren SP, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, DragonSpeed, Juncos Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing would seem the options for Alonso if he were to continue his pursuit of capturing the final leg of auto racing’s “Triple Crown” (having already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Monaco Grand Prix).

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How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).