By: Tanner Watkins
February 25, 2020 | 1:30 PM
While rumors of a different landing spot swirled for weeks, Fernando Alonso is coming home to join Arrow McLaren SP in his third appearance at the Indianapolis 500. The two-time Formula One world champion will pilot the No. 66 Chevrolet this may with sponsorship from Ruoff Mortgage.
“I am a racer and the Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world,” said Alonso. “I love the incredible fans who make it so special for all of us drivers and make me want to come back.
“I have maximum respect for this race and everyone who competes in it and all I want to do is race against them and give my best, as always.”
Tuesday’s announcement comes on the heels of a nixed deal between Alonso and his 2017 partner team, Andretti Autosport. And while the Spanish driver contends that he had to do his due diligence in securing a 2020 Indianapolis 500 ride, reuniting with Arrow McLaren SP still feels like home.
“It was important for me to explore my options for this race, but Arrow McLaren SP has always been at the top,” noted Alonso. “I have a special relationship with McLaren; we’ve been through a lot together and that creates a bond, a loyalty that is strong.
“But more than that, I am impressed with how the new organization and operation is developing into a strong package with the Chevrolet partnership. The team has experienced, well-qualified people and great resources, and I’m confident we can be competitive.”
Alonso drove for McLaren Racing at last year’s Indianapolis 500, failing to qualify for the race as Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing bumped the star-studded entry from the field.
In 2019, McLaren was running in association with Carlin – who saw two of their own drivers miss the race last year. This May, the outfit has a different look as the newly-branded Arrow McLaren SP organization takes aim at the “500” with Alonso joining youthful prospects Oliver Askew and Patricio O’Ward.
For co-owner Sam Schmidt, the experience that Alonso brings to the table should certainly serve as a strength for the team’s 2020 efforts.
“Adding Fernando to the team brings a level of experience and expertise that will benefit our two young, talented full-time drivers in Oliver and Pato,” Schmidt contended.
“We have fast cars at Indy and fully believe he has the talent to run at the front, not just participate. That, combined with Chevy power and the experience of the team, will make this trio of drivers one of the strongest in the field.”
In the 38-year-old’s lone start at the “500,” Alonso led four times for 27 laps in an Andretti Autosport-prepared car. Ruoff Mortgage will be backing the entry as the primary sponsor, a traditional partner of Andretti Autosport that has ties with McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
“We’ve always said we’re open to running Fernando in a third car for the 500, so we’re delighted he’s decided to join us,” said Brown on Tuesday. “Fernando is one of the greatest drivers in the sport and it’s fantastic to have him as part of the team.
“It’s a fine way to contest our first Indy 500 as Arrow McLaren SP and to have Ruoff Mortgage backing Fernando is a perfect partnership.”
By Open-Wheels’ count, Alonso’s ride is the 30th confirmed team and driver pairing for the 2020 Indianapolis 500. Add in DragonSpeed and Carlin (confirmed entries for Indianapolis without a driver) and James Davison with BYRD Racing (still to announce a partner team) and there are 32 solid entries by February 25.
Stay tuned for further coverage of the 2020 Indianapolis 500 and this year’s NTT IndyCar Series season on Open-Wheels.com.
Header image by Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR.