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Alonso Takes To The Tube

| , RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 2 2017

IndyCar/Formula One driver Fernando Alonso will take to the airwaves on Wednesday to meet with fans.

RacinToday.com

Fernando Alonso’s highly anticipated first test around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval will be available to fans around the world on Wednesday, May 3, with commentary provided by a team including the legendary Mario Andretti.

A fully produced live show will be televised online from 9:30 a.m.-noon (ET), with an announcing team of Andretti _ the 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1978 Formula One World Driving Champion _ and NBC Sports Network’s Verizon IndyCar Series talent Kevin Lee and Robin Miller. Coverage of the test will continue from 1-5 p.m. via a live stream without commentary.

Both the live show and stream will be available at these online outlets: Indycar.com, IMS.com IndyCar YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXh9uxthFnk) and IndyCar Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/indycar/videos/10154443069000848/).

Alonso, a two-time F1 World Champion, is skipping the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix this month to compete in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 28 at IMS. The 35-year-old Spaniard will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in a Dallara/Honda car entered by McLaren, his F1 team, and prepared by reigning race champions Andretti Autosport.

Alonso is aiming to win the second leg of auto racing’s Triple Crown of international events encompassing the Indianapolis 500, Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Alonso triumphed in 2006 and 2007 at Monaco.

Fans can watch testing for free from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. from the Turn 2 viewing mounds, Museum parking lot and South Terrace Grandstands. Fans are encouraged to use the hashtags #AlonsoRunsIndy and #Indy500 with all content posted about the test.

Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the 101st Indianapolis 500 and for more information on the complete Month or May schedule at IMS.

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Reigning Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi will receive his winner’s ring at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday on the fourth floor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Center.

Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi gets his ring this week.

IMS President J. Douglas Boles and Ken Keltner of Herff Jones will present the ring to the Andretti Autosport ace. Michael Andretti, Andretti Autosport CEO & Chairman, and Bryan Herta Autosport owner Bryan Herta also will attend the ceremony. 

The presentation is scheduled to take place during the midday break in the Fernando Alonso test and will conclude before on-track action resumes.

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Auto Racing Hall of Famer Joe Leonard, the 1968 Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter, a two-time USAC National Champion and one of the great motorcycle racers of all time, died on Thursday, April 27. He was 84.

The longtime San Jose, Calif., resident, who had been in ill health for some time, earned

Former Indy 500 pole-winner Joe Leonard passed away last week.

nine consecutive starts in the Indianapolis 500 between 1965 and 1973, leading the field for 52 laps and finishing third in 1967 and 1972.

Leonard won six USAC National Championship races during his career, including three at The Milwaukee Mile and one at Michigan International Speedway, plus the second running of the Ontario (Calif.) 500 in 1971 and second running of the Pocono (Pa.) 500 in 1972.

After suffering crippling leg and ankle injuries at Ontario in the spring of 1974 and being unable to pass the physical for a planned comeback the following year, Leonard retired.

Before turning to four wheels, Leonard was one of the most successful riders in American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) competition, winning 27 national events, including the Daytona 200 on two occasions when it was still conducted over the old “beach course.”

For the first several decades of its existence, AMA would declare a variety of different champions each year, typically based on the outcome of certain one-day events in different classifications. The coveted “Number 1” plate was assigned for the following season to whomever won the prestigious classic over the 1-mile dirt track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

For the first time in 1954, a series of widely diversified events awarded points toward a seasonal Grand National Championship. Not only was Leonard the inaugural titlist under those circumstances, he also won it again in 1956 and 1957,in addition to placing second in three other years through 1961.

Runner-up in points to Leonard that first year was his Harley-Davidson factory teammate, Paul Goldsmith. A mentor of sorts who helped Leonard numerous times throughout his career, Goldsmith remained a very close friend, talking with Leonard by phone just days before his passing. Goldsmith lobbied for Leonard to drive a Nichels Engineering Dodge on the USAC Stock Car circuit in 1964, with Leonard ending up fifth in points and winning the 100-miler on the dirt track at Du Quoin, Ill.

Leonard once revealed that driving in the Indianapolis 500 had been an ambition of his since boyhood, as many of his heroes were 500 drivers who took part in the West Coast Midget Car races he watched from the grandstands in San Diego as a teenager. “I never started out to race bikes,” Leonard once said, “but I couldn’t seem to get into Midgets and since I didn’t have much money, it ended up that bikes were how I got started and how I got to Indianapolis.”

Despite finishing third in the “500” on two occasions, the overall results fail to illustrate how much of a contender Leonard was for victory year after year. In 1968, for instance, the year after his third-place finish as a teammate to race-winner A.J. Foyt Jr., Leonard was recruited to assist the Granatelli STP team, which had just suffered through a devastating series of major driver injuries and setbacks.

Assigned to a rear-engine Pratt & Whitney gas turbine-powered four-wheel-drive Lotus “wedge car,” Leonard and one of his teammates, British Formula One World Driving Champion Graham Hill, quickly stabilized the still-reeling team by qualifying one-two. 

Although he led only 31 laps of the 1968 race, Leonard appeared headed for victory and was in front when a late-race caution was about to end on Lap 192. Out came the green and Leonard promptly slowed, heading for the Turn 1 infield grass, a failed fuel pump shaft forcing him out within sight of victory. 

In 1969, Leonard ran second for many laps in a Smokey Yunick-entered, turbocharged Ford-powered Eagle until turbocharger problems resulted in a couple of lengthy pit stops. He managed to salvage sixth at the finish but was still several laps behind when he could well have been strongly challenging Mario Andretti for the win.

In 1970, Leonard ran second again for several laps, this time behind teammate Al Unser in one of the Vel’s Parnelli Jones Johnny Lightning Specials. A faulty ignition eliminated Leonard after 73 laps; days later, he trounced the entire field at Milwaukee.

In 1971, as Unser’s teammate but now sporting yellow Samsonite livery instead of Johnny Lightning blue, Leonard waged a great back-and-forth battle over several laps with Unser, including as late as Lap 117, shortly before turbocharger problems sent him to the sidelines. 

There was certainly consolation from a third-place Indianapolis 500 finish the following year behind Mark Donohue and Unser. But because Leonard led a less-flamboyant existence than some of his peers, his name tends to be overlooked when fans and historians discuss the most deserving 500 drivers who never won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

 

| , RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 2 2017
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