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McLaren Won't Buy Its Way Into the Indy 500

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Photo: Michael Conroy (AP Images)

Motorsport’s big star in an always-faltering car, Fernando Alonso, was one of three drivers who failed to make the field for this year’s Indianapolis 500—leaving Alonso and his McLaren team with the choice of either trying to buy their way in or going home. They’ve chosen to go home.

Alonso, who was one of six drivers in the bump field going for three spots on the last row for IndyCar’s biggest event, lost his provisional spot in the race to Juncos Racing driver Kyle Kaiser, whose attempt was 0.019 mph faster.


That made Alonso’s No. 66 Chevrolet-powered McLaren the first car below the bump line, with Patricio O’Ward and Max Chilton also failing to qualify.

But McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer the team won’t buy Alonso’s way into the race, which was the only option it had left for this year after getting bumped. A later tweet from Fryer said even if McLaren wanted its spot, Juncos wouldn’t give it up.


“We’ll come back fighting,” a tweet from Fryer quoted Brown as saying. “We don’t want to buy in. We want to earn it. Anyone can buy in. We want to get in on merit.” Fryer tweeted later that Brown confirmed there were conversations about potentially getting Alonso “a seat with no McLaren affiliation,” but that Alonso didn’t feel right to take another driver out by buying the spot.

Alonso’s failure to qualify, and this subsequent conversation, all started with McLaren’s attempt to do the Indianapolis 500 under its own banner when it doesn’t currently have a full IndyCar program.

Alonso returned for his second Indy 500—after a successful Andretti-backed 2017 debut spoiled, as he was so used to back then, by a Honda engine gone sour—as part of that attempt.


The race was supposed to be a look at what a full-time McLaren IndyCar effort could be, but ended with McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran apologizing to Alonso for failing to bring a car “that was fast enough” to qualify and McLaren IndyCar leader Robert Fernley leaving the project. ( reports that Fernley said his contract only went through the Indy 500.)

De Ferran also apologized to everyone from fans to sponsors, via Racer:

“I want to apologize to and thank our partners who have been fantastic, and incredibly supportive through this journey. I thank also the whole IndyCar community, frankly, who welcomed us with open arms. All the way from the officials, safety people, all the other teams, everyone in and around IndyCar, it was nothing but a warm feeling and a lot of support.

“Last but not least, I want to thank this man here on my left, who – and I want to apologize to you, as well, because we didn’t give you a car that was fast enough. You drove like the champion that we know you are.

“Particularly these last three days have been incredibly tense and very difficult, and we couldn’t have asked anything more from you, Fernando. So I’m sorry, man. You’re an amazing driver. In my 35 years of racing, actually a few more, this is the most painful experience I’ve ever had. [...]”


Apologies aside, Alonso won’t be in this year’s Indianapolis 500 barring a major change in what everyone seems to have their minds set on. Alonso also didn’t promise anything in regards to future Indy 500 bids, Fryer tweeted, saying he doesn’t even know what he’s doing after the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Perhaps next time, if there is a next time, whichever group Alonso has behind him for the Indy 500 will be more prepared for a competitive run.