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Alonso’s Triple Crown Bid To Begin May 3

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 21 2017

Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso will hit the bricks in two weeks. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Fernando Alonso’s Verizon IndyCar Series dance card is beginning to fill up.

Alonso is scheduled to log his first test laps with Andretti Autosport in preparation for competing in the 101st Indianapolis 500 on Wednesday, May 3, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Alonso, the Formula One World Driving Champion in 2005 and 2006, will lap the 2.5-mile IMS oval between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in his oval-track debut.

On Sunday, Alonso will meet-and-greet his Andretti Autosport teammates and American media during a news conference at noon (EDT) at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The 2.3-mile/17-turn natural-terrain road-course is the site of this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First, third race on the 2017 schedule.

Joining Alonso during the news conference will be Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group, parent company of the McLaren Formula One team for which Alonso drives; Michael Andretti, CEO of the Andretti Autosport team fielding Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 entry and Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Alonso stunned the motorsports world last week when he announced he would skip the Monaco Grand Prix _ F1’s most prestigious event _ on May 28 to compete in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil at IMS. The Spaniard will make his IndyCar Series debut in a Dallara/Honda entered by McLaren and prepared by reigning race champions Andretti Autosport. Alonso drives for McLaren Honda in the FIA Formula One World Championship.

Alonso, 35, is aiming to win the second leg of auto racing’s Triple Crown. A winner at Monaco in 2006 and 2007, Alonso is bidding to add victories in the Indy 500 and sports car racing’s 24 Hours of Le Mans to his impressive resume.

Alonso never has driven a Dallara Indy car chassis powered by a turbocharged Honda Hl17TT Indy V6, much less compete on an oval. At IMS, Alonso will be challenged by a 2.5-mile oval ringed by concrete walls protected by SAFER Barrier technology, sustained race day speeds in excess of 225 mph and as many as seven pit stops.

“(The Indy 500) is one of the best races in the world, one of the most prestigious races in the world,” said Alonso, outlining his decision. “As a driver, if you want to be the best, if you want to be considered the best, you need to be able to drive all type of cars in all different series and be able to be competitive in all of them, and if possible to win all of them.

So after, you know, a successful F1 championships, I think the opportunity to race in Indy 500, the opportunity to race one day in the future in Le Mans, that dream of the Triple Crown, winning all the Big Three, is something very attractive for a driver point-of-view.”

Alonso’s four Andretti teammates include reigning Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi of California, an aspiring F1 driver who won the 100th Indy 500 as a rookie in circumstances similar to those facing Alonso. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2014.

Fans can watch the entire Alonso test free of charge from the Turn 2 viewing mounds, IMS Museum parking lot and South Terrace Grandstand.

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Ed Carpenter Racing has entered Zach Veach in place of the injured JR Hildebrand at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend. Veach will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet while Hildebrand rests his left hand.

Hildebrand broke a bone in the hand on Sunday, April 9, in a final-lap incident during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The break required surgery, performed on Tuesday, April 11, at the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center in Indianapolis.

“This obviously is not how I had hoped this would play-out, but I’ve done everything there was to do since surgery last Tuesday with good results,” Hildebrand, 29, said in a statement. “It seems the risk is still too high given the initial extent of the injury. The doctors I’ve worked with have been awesome to get my fractures sorted out and I trust their view of the situation. I’m continuing to rehab with maximum focus to be back for Phoenix.”

Veach, 22, has six Indy Lights wins, including three last season on his way to a third-place finish in the championship. The Stockdale, Ohio, native already has been confirmed to drive in this year’s Indianapolis 500 with A.J. Foyt Racing.

“My thoughts are with JR and his recovery, the most important part of this,” Veach said. “My heart goes out to him as I suffered a broken hand a couple years ago and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. This isn’t how any driver wants to get his first race; that said, I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to sub for JR. Ed gave me my first chance to test an Indy car a few months ago. It’s going to be a lot to take in in a short amount of time, but I’m excited to do the best I can for the team, as well as JR.”

Veach will be joined by teammate Spencer Pigot, road and street-course driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Pigot, of Orlando, Fla., is the 2015 Indy Lights champion and winningest driver in the Mazda Road to Indy driver development program.

“We will obviously miss JR being in the car this weekend, but we need to focus on what’s best for his recovery and for ECR while he’s recovering,” team-owner/oval specialist Carpenter said.  “Zach is a driver that we have been interested in; during the test at Sonoma last year, he did nothing but impress.”

NBC Sports Network will air qualifying at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday. The live broadcast of the 90-lap race begins on NBCSN at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 21 2017
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