McLaren announced that Fernando Alonso, Formula One's two-time champion and three-time runner-up, will compete in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28.
Alonso will drive for Andretti Autosport, which has won four Indianapolis 500s, including last year's race with Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Alexander Rossi at the wheel of the Honda-powered Dallara. Honda also powers Alonso's car on McLaren's grand prix team.
Alonso will miss the Monaco Grand Prix, as the races take place on the same day. A replacement driver will be announced at a later date.
Alonso becomes the ninth driver to enter the 500 with a world championship on his resume. In recent years, Nigel Mansell's participation in 1993 as the reigning F1 champion was the most celebrated, with media interest at a fevered pitch. Mansell finished third.
Alonso's decision to join this year's 500 field adds to the momentum of the race and the Verizon IndyCar Series. Last year's 500 was sold out for the first time in history and broke attendance marks. The Verizon IndyCar Series has seen television ratings increases each of the past three years, a combined 55 percent, and Alonso's participation should provide an even greater spotlight on the “Month of May” activities.
In related news, Indianapolis Motor Speedway recently announced a new collaborative community effort, 500 Forward, to elevate and extend celebrations surrounding the Indianapolis 500.
500 Forward consists of 13 partner organizations paired with IMS to execute programming and events that celebrate the “Greatest Month in Racing” and support worthy civic initiatives through the legacy and appeal of the Indianapolis 500.
The 500 Forward programs and events include:
– Welcome Program: A collaboration with Visit Indy, the Indianapolis Airport Authority and Hamilton Country Tourism to ensure amped-up hospitality for visitors during the Month of May. This will include welcome signage at Indianapolis International Airport and more than 30 hotels in Indianapolis and Hamilton County. Taxi cab drivers will also receive special Indy 500 advocate training and checkered car flags.
– Indy 500 Porch Parties: A popular program returning through support from the Harrison Center for the Arts. Central Indiana residents are once again encouraged to celebrate the Month of May with officially registered porch parties. Last year, more than 500 events took place.
– 500 Gives Back: A grant program administered by the 500 Festival to support community organizations implementing life-enriching events, activities and programs, while also celebrating the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500.
– Bike to the 500: The second annual ride will take place on Race Day, Sunday, May 28. Last year, more than 800 fans participated.
– “Welcome Race Fans”: Five local artists have been commissioned by the Arts Council of Indianapolis to create unique, racing-themed pieces of art that will debut in late April and be placed throughout the community during the Month of May.
– Downtown Décor: A collaboration with Visit Indy to deck out downtown Indianapolis in racing-themed décor.
Organizations participating in 500 Forward include the 500 Festival, Arts Council of Indianapolis, City of Indianapolis, Downtown Indy, Hamilton County Tourism, Harrison Center for the Arts, IMS Museum, Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Airport Authority, IndyHub, IndyCog, Speedway Chamber of Commerce and Visit Indy.
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