The Never-Ending Quest to be First

For the past couple of weeks, it has been a foregone conclusion that Fernando Alonso would be running this year’s Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s my understanding that the sponsors had been lined up and that a deal was imminent. It was assumed by everyone that Andretti and Alonso had received the blessing from Honda’s global headquarters in Tokyo, and that they had finally moved past Alonso’s public trashing of the Japanese manufacturer a couple of seasons ago in Formula One.

As Lee Corso would say – Not so fast, my friend!

On Sunday, we learned from Marshall Pruett at that as Honda Performance Development (HPD) sought final approval, they were told by the Tokyo officials not to proceed with the deal. Oops!

There’s a reason that I never intended for this site to be a news site. I only comment on news that has been confirmed. Whether or not my opinions matter to anyone is up for debate, but I have never tried to break stories or regurgitate the same press releases we all see on the same sites. Sometimes my commentary is delayed and old news by the time I comment on it, but I’d rather comment on old news instead of spreading fake news.

When the Kobe Bryant news first broke about ten days ago, the amount of misinformation out there was appalling. Within the span of one hour, we went from hearing that TMZ had reported his death to hearing from other sources that his entire family was on board the ill-fated helicopter. The death toll also jumped from five in the afternoon to nine that evening. Things were out of control, mostly because of different news outlets being more concerned with being first, than being accurate.

I saw the same thing this past weekend with the Alonso/Andretti deal. I kept coming across story after story of people claiming this deal was confirmed. But I kept looking at the sites that were claiming it to be official, and I noticed at the time that there was one common thread among them – I had never heard of any of these outlets. Nowhere did I see these reports coming from,,, Trackside Online or directly from Andretti Autosport – the ones that would really know the truth.

Look, I’m not disparaging small amateur sites. Who am I to do that? With help from my wife, I’m pretty much a one-person show here. I have a fulltime job and do this in my spare time for free. How much more amateurish can you get than that? But as Clint Eastwood once uttered in a movie; a man needs to know his limitations. I recognize my limitations and that’s that I can’t be obsessed with being first or even 101st. I let things play out after they are confirmed and then I pound out however I feel about things, for whatever that’s worth. But I digress…

Getting back to the deal that never happened, is this Honda trying to posture their way into publicly humiliating Alonso and forcing him to beg their forgiveness before they give their blessing or are they being steadfast in their resolve to never do business with Alonso ever again? To be honest, I have no idea.

But this sure throws a wrench into the Indy-only plans of several drivers.

If Honda doesn’t change their mind, this opens the door for James Hinchcliffe and his backers for May to take the open seat at Andretti Autosport. But if sponsorship is not an issue (I know, that’s a big if), would Michael Andretti prefer to run Hinchcliffe, who is usually solid at Indianapolis or Carlos Muñoz, who is usually spectacular there? Muñoz is spectacular, but he has not driven an Indy car since the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Two years out of the car can sometimes be a problem. We may get our answer as early as Friday on Hinchcliffe. Last night, he posted a somewhat cryptic tweet with "02.07.2020" and the hashtag #challengeaccepted. That sort of gives the impression he will be making a pretty big announcement on Friday.

And what about Fernando Alonso? What are his options if Honda doesn’t eventually relent? Well, there are open seats for May at Carlin, DragonSpeed, Dreyer & Reinbold and possibly Foyt. There is also a third seat at McLaren, who Alonso publicly divorced from less than a couple of weeks ago. There are already three filled seats at Ed Carpenter Racing for May and I don’t see them adding a fourth. Then there is Team Penske. Tim Cindric has repeatedly said that they don’t want to run more than the four cars they already have. But now that Roger Penske owns IMS, would he consider ponying up for a fifth car for the good of the Indianapolis 500, which is now his event?

I know one thing. If I’m Fernando Alonso and Honda doesn’t budge on their stance, I would try to run the Indianapolis 500 with Team Penske or else I would go home. I don’t think he wants to risk the embarrassment of not making the field two years in a row or put in the time to run around at the back of the field with DragonSpeed or Foyt. He wants to come here and win and he would have no shot at winning with those teams. If Andretti is out and Penske says no – I would pack my bags and focus on 2021.

Once again when it comes to Fernando Alonso, there are more questions than answers. Stay tuned. This is going to get even more interesting in the coming days. But this story was made worse by some people jumping the gun and reporting this as a done deal, just in the never-ending quest to be first.

George Phillips

12 Responses to “The Never-Ending Quest to be First”

  1. I love your approach to running the site, it’s why this is the only blog I follow. Oil Pressure and Miller’s Mailbag are the only things I make it a point to read every week. Thanks for all you do and don’t change a thing.

  2. Bruce Waine Says:

    A proverbial fly on the wall during the “motor” issue might be informative but then one must weigh that with the ancient custom “saving face.”

    “Saving face” when shamed in public – No when shamed at the level in the presence of the world appears to leave a permanent impression that, I would suggest, we will not see erased let alone toned down no matter how extensive one apologizes.

    The window pane is shattered and has no hope of being seen through again.

    Hinch revealed on Pruett’s podcast that once he learned that he would not be driving for McLaren he knew that his opportunity for securing a full 2020 season ride was not what he sought driving for a less than successful team.

    Hinch implied that he would rather seek a full time ride for 2021 knowing that he would stand a better chance of winning in a quality team.

    “Fred”, I would imagine, may be of the same mindset. Winning is the goal ……… driving for a team that would provide a winning team and car at his disposal.

    Two blemishes on “Fred’s” shoulders (Honda’s F1 motor and 2019 Indy 500) are sufficient to not add a third……………

  3. Fred is independently wealthy. Very wealthy. He doesn’t have to beg a ride nor does he have to pay money to buy a ride. After last year, it will be first class or nothing.

    I expect him to run with Penske this year to take advantage of their engineering and technical expertise even if he has to pay the full (pocket change) amount for his own team out of his own pocket.

    The only thing he can’t afford is to lose another year of his life to doing nothing.

  4. David, Fort Wayne Says:

    Track owner, Series owner, Race Promotor,Team Owner,Billionaire,Marketing Guru, = Roger Penske . Mr.Penske has seen the international interest increases in the 500 when having Fred participate in the event. I don’t think RP cares which of his drivers win the race ,just win the race. Fred has shown in one attempt that in a good car he can win the race. It doesn’t take a Mensa member to see pairing Fred and Team Penske for the GP and 500 is a great idea. NBC would love it as well. As would I.

  5. I will not be buying a Honda anytime soon. It is a shame my guys (Dixon & Rahal) drvie them this season. Honda brings a heap of junk to F1 tracks for years and embarrasses themselves. Ruining the back half of Alonso’s F1 career and nearly destroying McLaren wasn’t enough, the clowns in Tokyo want to kill Alonso’s IndyCar career too. Forget a third car make, I’d rather The Captain replace Honda altogether.

    • Funny, that once Honda got away from Alonso and McLaren’s obviously faulty design philosophies (remember the “size zero “ chassis approach?), and went to Toro Rosso, Honda’s power unit improvement was quite impressive.

      Everyone knows about Honda’s continued improvement last year, with the “varsity “ Red Bull squad.

      Maybe, despite Alondo’s reputation as being able to wring a lot of performance out of the car in the race, he simply isn’t that good of a development driver. Which is what you really have to be in Formula One thesr days, since they’re so little testing available. Feedback generated to the engineers during Friday practice is critical; maybe his (Alonso’s) isn’t that good.

      Aside from his world championship years at Renault where they had a marked advantage with Michelin tires, can you tell me what one of his Formula One cars showed any significant improvements as the seasons went on?

      And it’s not like he was driving for back marker teams at that point.

  6. Well, Carlos Munoz is indeed missed. What is he doing these days? Is he still a professional race car driver?

    Hinch to Andretti for the Indianapolis 500 indeed sounds like a combination that is very capable of winning.

    I’d agree with you, George, on what Alonso’s best options are: Team Penske or sit out this year’s race.

    What is happening at Carlin? Who are they going to run in the upcoming season, besides Max Chilton on the road courses?

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Seems like there are a lot of lessons in this mess… about verifying facts, about not burning bridges, about taking the time to understand cultural differences, about human nature in general.

    Hope Fred finds a ride with someone in May.

  8. I am getting sick of reading about Alonso. Here or anywhere.

  9. Dreyer & Reinbold would be his best option. If that does not happen, he won’t be at Indy at all.

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