The Race

Fernando Alonso sweeps Legends Trophy sim victories at Indianapolis

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Fernando Alonso made a triumphant return to the virtual version of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, sweeping the Legends Trophy doubleheader sim races Saturday.

After beating 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button by 0.037 seconds in the first race, Alonso started 21st in Race 2 and managed to weave his way to the front over the next 20 minutes. The two-time Formula One champion beat World Touring Car veteran Tiago Monteiro in the second race.

After stunningly failing to qualify for his second Indianapolis 500 start last year, Alonso will be entered in the rescheduled 104th running of the race Aug. 23 with Arrow McLaren SP.

‘BACK HOME AGAIN’Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, NBC

FIERCE FRIENDSHIPPagenaud, Rossi recall epic battle of 2019 Indy 500

As a 2017 Indy 500 rookie, he qualified fifth, led 27 laps and finished 24th because of an engine failure after 179 laps.

“I was super scared of losing the first (Legends Trophy) race,” Alonso said. “Jenson is a very smart guy, and we were both playing games trying to be in front or behind.

“We were studying each other, but with Jenson you never know. He’s always one step ahead, and I was very worried that I would slip. He had a moment in turn four one lap before the end, and that was enough of a gap for me.”

It was the second Legends Trophy appearance for Alonso, who made his surprise competitive sim racing debut in the series just last week.

“I’m very new at this,” Alonso said. “I only received the rig last Thursday before (last week’s Legends Trophy race at) Zandvoort. After one week and a half, I’m still playing with some buttons. It was great
today, and it’s good fun always at the Indianapolis Speedway.”

There were six former Indy 500 winners and four F1 champions competing in the Legends Trophy event at the Brickyard, including the series sim debut of 1969 Indy 500 winner and 1978 F1 champion Mario Andretti.

Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner took fifth in the first race, and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was third in the second race. Two-time F1 and Indy 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, 73, matched his season-best finish with a 10th in Race 2.

Andretti, the oldest driver in the race at 80, recovered from a slow start to finish 19th in the second race.

“I had a blast,” Andretti said. “Obviously, it seemed like I was part of every situation that was happening out there, but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Will I do it again? You never say never. We have the rig here, I have to get a lot more familiar with it.

“It was not natural. It was so different. What I have going against me is that you drive it differently. The line is a little different, so you have to understand just what the rig wants, what the sim likes and how aggressive you can get. There’s a definite learning curve, no question about it.”

By finishing fourth in the second race, Button is the championship leader with 322 points. Five-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro is 39 points behind in second (283).

The two top-four finishes by Button extended his points lead to 39 (322-283) over five-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro. Four-time Le Mans winner Magnussen is third in the standings with 271 points.

NEXT: The final race in this round of the Torque Esports/Engine Media’s The Race All-Star Series Legends Trophy championship will take place Saturday at noon ET (ESPN2) at a track to be determined. The winner will have $30,000 donated in his name to a favorite charity.

Simon Pagenaud’s engineer relives 2019 Indy 500 victory on Twitter

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The Team Penske engineer for last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner is reliving Simon Pagenaud’s day by tweeting about what he was doing each moment a year later.

Starting with an observation that he awoke in his Indianapolis hotel room at 4:30 a.m., Ben Bretzman (@benbretzman) sent nearly two dozen tweets by 11 a.m. ET about how the morning before the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 unfolded.

Bretzman was through the infield tunnel and in Gasoline Alley by 6 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., he was wondering if his driver was awake yet, but he had heard for the first time from Pagenaud 45 minutes later.

‘BACK HOME AGAIN’Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, NBC

FIERCE FRIENDSHIPPagenaud, Rossi recall epic battle of 2019 Indy 500

Among other highlights: The team’s last strategy meeting was at 8:30 a.m.; final check of the weather was at 9:30 a.m. and Bretzman gave the No. 22 Dallara-Chevrolet a once-over at 10:35 a.m. before it was pushed to the grid.

Follow @BenBretzman to watch the day unfold from the pit box and tune into “Back Home Again at 2 p.m. ET on NBC as Pageanud and Alexander Rossi, who are good friends off the track, recap their epic duel with host Mike Tirico.

Simon Pagenaud and engineer Ben Bretzman debrief at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IndyCar photo by Joe Skibinski).