DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – If you’re trying to keep one step ahead of Fernando Alonso on his current career path, here’s some insight:
Indianapolis is definitely in, a return to Formula One is possible and NASCAR is probably out.
Alonso, a veteran of 18 F1 seasons who left the series at the end of 2018, is already set to return to the Indianapolis 500 in May with McLaren. Speculation remains that he is considering a return to F1 in 2020. And, since a promotional ride swap with Jimmie Johnson in late November, rumors have surfaced that he might be interested in NASCAR.
When asked about the NASCAR rumors, Alonso downplayed them.
“There’s nothing in the plans at the moment,” he said. “I can’t say never ever, but right now in the short term, it’s not in the plans. It would be starting from zero and learning everything, and the schedule is super intense. I don’t feel like it’s the right moment now.”
For now, Alonso is committed to competing in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the end of the 2018-19 World Endurance Challenge super season – including the 24 Hours of Le Mans – and the 103rd Indy 500. His ultimate goal is to complete auto racing’s Triple Crown – winning Indy, the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’s got Monaco and Le Mans in the bag, and Indy remains promising.
In 2017, Alonso was fast throughout the month of May in an Andretti Autosport car with Honda power. He qualified fifth and led 27 laps of the 200-lap race before a mechanical failure left him with a 24th-place finish.
In November, Alonso announced with McLaren that he’ll return to Indianapolis. This time, it will be with Chevrolet power, which aligns with the sister General Motors brand Cadillac that he’s co-driving this weekend in the Daytona Prototype International class for Wayne Taylor Racing. Teammate Jordan Taylor qualified the No. 10 entry sixth on Thursday.
“I’ve made clear for some time my desire to achieve the Triple Crown,” Alonso said in a November release announcing his intent to return to Indy. “I had an incredible experience at Indianapolis in 2017 and I knew in my heart of hearts I had to go back if the opportunity was there. I’m especially glad to be returning with McLaren. This was always my first choice if the team decided to do it, so I’m delighted they’ve decided to go ahead.”
As for a return to F1 in 2020, the 37-year-old two-time world champion has been coy.
“I’m busier this year than I was last year,” he said. “It’s something that I didn’t expect. People are asking me how it’s like now without Formula One. … I’m like, ‘Maybe I’ll come back to Formula One to rest.’”
Alonso and his Konica Minolta teammates ran 13th overall and last among the 10 DPi entries in Friday morning’s final practice under chilly conditions that are expected to persist throughout the weekend. But a single lap time isn’t indicative of how a team or car perform over 24 hours. For his part, Alonso is ready to go.
“The preparation into the race is so long and so intense that once you see the green flag, you know the time has arrived,” he said. “It’s time to deliver.”
Another Cadillac, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing that includes former Indy car racer Christian Fittipaldi (making his final start before retirement) among its co-drivers, posted the fastest lap of Friday’s final practice, at 1 minute, 34.358 seconds around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
The 47 entries in the four classes now sit idle until Saturday’s race. NBCSN has opening coverage live beginning at 2 p.m. ET, with the green flag expected at 2:35 p.m.