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.

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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.

IndyCar: Tony Kanaan’s ‘Last Lap’ begins at Texas Motor Speedway

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The streak lives for Tony Kanaan. At least for one more race.

With Kanaan running only ovals during his farewell IndyCar season in 2020 – which has been dubbed the “Last Lap” – his record streak of 317 consecutive Indy-car starts was to end with the season opener March 15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Fate had other plans. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the postponement of St. Pete (now the season finale in October) amid the shutdown of American sports.

IndyCar has made multiple changes to its 2020 schedule since then, and as a result, Kanaan is getting an opportunity to extend his “Ironman” streak.

The 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner is set for career start No. 318 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – driving the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet alongside the team’s new full-season driver, Charlie Kimball, in the No. 4 Chevy.

“A lot of people ask me how I coped with the delay of the season,” Kanaan said Monday in an IndyCar Zoom news conference. “To be honest, I was mentally prepared already because my first real race was going to be the [Indy] 500. My mind was already set for May.

“I only really had to delay, what, a couple of weeks from what I was originally scheduled to do. For me, I think it wasn’t as hard as for the other guys that were already in St. Pete, ready to go.”

But while his mindset is locked in, Kanaan notes that he’s been out of a race car for eight months. In fact, as of Monday, he hadn’t sat in a car fitted with the new Aeroscreen cockpit protection system.

However, he is no stranger to the wild and woolly action at Texas. Ditto for his new-slash-old teammate, Kimball: The two competed together at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-17.

That experience is something A.J. Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt is grateful to have on his side.

“Going into this race, it’s huge,” Foyt said. “Especially with the one-day show, everything is accelerated, and going to a big track like Texas, having a guy like Charlie sit on the pole there [in 2017], knows his way around there, and obviously TK is very good there, as well.

“It’s a little bit of peace of mind for sure. Anything can happen, but the engineering group has been working really well together. We’re really hopeful we’re going to unload and get these guys some good cars out of the box. That’s the plan.”

Speaking of Kimball, the Californian is set to revive his full-time career in the sport after making just seven starts last season with Carlin.

He’s enjoyed his unexpected free time at home with his wife, Kathleen, and their two children, Hannah and newborn son Gordon, who arrived in March. But he’s grateful to get back in the car – and to accompany Tony on his ‘last lap.’

“We’re friends off the track,” Charlie said. “We train together. He’s gotten me addicted to riding a bicycle on a computer game, but also our wives are friends, and I think our families when we can get together and the kids can play, I think they’re going to interact really well. I’m excited for his daughter Nina to spend some time with our daughter.

“And the experience – I mean, he’s taught me things and I’ve learned a lot from him about how to restart on ovals and what you can and what you should and shouldn’t do and what he still does. That experience is invaluable to me to continue to learn and get better. I just feel really honored to be his teammate during his last lap, especially when we get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.”

The NTT IndyCar Series season begins Saturday night from Texas Motor Speedway with the Genesys 300 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. The race will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.