INDIANAPOLIS – Fernando Alonso came to conquer the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil and cross off the second of three career-defining triple crown accomplishments in a much-publicized motorsports pursuit.
One of the two-time Formula One champion’s competitors Sunday already has achieved two-thirds of that challenge, but Juan Pablo Montoya doesn’t seem too consumed by completing the final step of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and 2015 and F1’s Monaco Grand Prix in 2003. Asked Thursday if he thinks about Le Mans, Montoya said: “I don’t know, not really. I mean, is it in my mind I need to do this? No, not really.”
British legend Graham Hill is the only driver to achieve this distinction — he won at Monaco five times from 1963-69, claimed the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 1966 and triumphed at Le Mans in 1972.
So what of racing immortality?
“If you get an opportunity to go and experience Le Mans, I think that would be cool at some point,” Montoya said. “If it doesn’t happen, I’m OK, too. Would it change my life if it doesn’t happen? No.”
Because Montoya, 41, is driving for Team Penske on a part-time basis in May, he wouldn’t have any commitments preventing him from racing next month in France.
“I like watching it,” he said of Le Mans. “I watch it every year, a lot of the race. But it is what it is. I don’t think about it too much.”
Alonso, whose 32 career F1 wins rank sixth on the all-time list, has spoken candidly for two years about his passion to win the triple crown and cement his legacy as one of the greatest racers in history. The desire was strong enough for him to skip the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday — which Alonso won in 2006 and 2007 — in favor of the Indy 500.
Alonso’s No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda will start fifth in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The classic papaya orange car is McLaren’s first 500 entry in 38 years.
Montoya, replaced at Team Penske last offseason by Josef Newgarden, will start 18th in the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet. What’s next after he makes his fifth Indy 500 start?
Hall of Fame team owner Roger Penske recently confirmed his intent to return to sports car racing and has said Montoya and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves are among the strongest considerations, although a final decision has not yet been made.
Castroneves will start his 17th Indy 500 from a career-low 19th position in the No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet.
When asked about racing sports cars, Montoya was more enthusiastic, in general.
“I think it would be fun,” he said. “I’m intrigued by that, probably more.”
If Montoya had his way, any sports-car deal with Penske would include the opportunity to return for the Indy 500.
“I hope so,” Montoya said. “It’s out of my hands, to be honest. That’s more in (Penske’s) hands. I would like that. I’m good here. If he wants to have a good shot at winning, I think I’m a good bullet for it. I’ve always done well here.”
Miller Lite Carb Day practice for the 101st Indy 500 – the final one-hour session before Sunday’s race begins at 11 a.m. ET today and airs live on NBCSN. Coverage of the 200-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval begins at 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the Indianapolis 500.