INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With ticket sales soaring for the Indianapolis 500 in anticipation of his first start in the race, Formula One star Fernando Alonso hit the Brickyard on Wednesday for his first drive around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After IndyCar driver Marco Andretti set up the No. 29 for Andretti Autosport, Alonso strapped into the bright orange Honda and hit the track and ran several laps, moving gradually past the 200 mph threshold to near 210 mph before heading to the pits.
"He only has 20 mph to go," IndyCar legend Mario Andretti said. "He's getting the feel of it. He's doing exactly what he needs to do. The experience that he has should dominate, but the anxiety is still there."
The Spaniard will attempt to run the Indianapolis 500 later this month, and hopefully, some day, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He's on a quest to win what's considered the Triple Crown of racing. That includes the Monaco Grand Prix, which he's already won. This bid at Indianapolis requires him to master new cars and racing styles.
"Fernando is coming in with a team that's certainly fresh with winning this race," Mario Andretti said. "He's placed exactly right. I think I feel what he's feeling right now."
Alonso, whose 32 F1 wins rank sixth all-time, has competed before at Indianapolis, but on the road course set up for the U.S. Grand Prix. He waited patiently for his turn behind the wheel while Marco Andretti ran several laps to get the car set up.
"You just need to make sure it stuck for him to get confidence," Marco Andretti said after exiting the car. "He'll have to learn by fire. He's asking the right questions. He'll be fine. He's a race car driver. I think he'll leave today pretty confident. He's going to be spoiled after today, that's for sure."
Alonso drives for struggling McLaren in Formula One. He will be the sixth entry for Andretti Autosport at Indy in a partnership with Honda and McLaren. The 35-year-old has begun preparing for Indy by testing on a simulator, where the walls aren't so intimidating and there's no traffic to negotiate.
Speedway president Doug Boles said Alonso's planned appearance in the race has sent ticket sales trending higher than all but one of the last 20 years.
"It's been great for the momentum and excitement," Boles said. "Fans from all over the world ... began buying tickets. It's great for the brand."
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