Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso is open to racing in pretty much anything, and NASCAR has been discussed. Here is an how it could happen, but won’t.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso participated in a ride swap at Bahrain International Raceway back in November of 2018, just days after Alonso retired from Formula 1 competition.
This ride swap has been referenced on numerous occasions when discussing a potential future in open-wheel racing for Johnson, who revealed in November that the 2020 season will be his 19th and final season as a full-time Cup Series driver.
The 44-year-old El Cajon, California native, who drove Alonso’s McLaren around the 15-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) Bahrain International Circuit road course in Sakhir, Bahrain, has stated on multiple occasions that he would like to compete in IndyCar after he retires from full-time Cup Series competition after the 2020 season.
Johnson has maintained that he would like to try IndyCar road course racing, and he landed a test with Arrow McLaren SP, which formed ahead of the 2020 season when McLaren formed a partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
He attended preseason testing at Circuit of the Americas as a guest of the team. His first real test was scheduled to take place on Monday, April 6 at Barber Motorsports Park, but as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it did not take place and will have to be rescheduled.
He has since stated that it is still on his bucket list, although it is unknown if he will test at the 17-turn, 2.38-mile (3.830-kilometer) natural terrain road course in Birmingham, Alabama or at another venue.
But one possibility that hasn’t been touched on nearly as much as the possibility of Johnson competing in IndyCar is the possibility of Alonso competing in NASCAR.
When the 38-year-old Spaniard announced in August of 2018 that he would be retiring from full-time Formula 1 competition after the 2018 season, NASCAR invited him to compete in the Daytona 500.
That led to this eyebrow-raising exchange.
Alonso is pretty much open to trying anything at this point, and he has proven that he can drive anything well. He responded.
Here’s where he could make his NASCAR debut — but also where it won’t happen.
Hendrick Motorsports have not committed to signing any particular driver to replace Johnson behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet next year. Alonso is technically available.
It’s extremely hard to see Hendrick Motorsports signing a 39-year-old rookie to replace the retiring Johnson, especially with several other drivers available in what is slated to be a stacked free agent class.
They pretty much have the ability to choose freely with Ally Financial having signed a three-year contract extension to serve as the full-time primary sponsor of the #48 Chevrolet through the 2023 season.
Alonso has hinted that he could return to Formula 1 next year if the right opportunity arises, and given recent reports, it is believed that he will do so as the replacement for the McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo at Renault, which would eliminate the NASCAR route entirely for 2021.
Due to the severed relationship that Alonso and McLaren have with Honda from their Formula 1 years together from 2015 to 2017, Alonso has developed ties to Chevrolet, although that unfortunately ended in disappointment for him last May when he failed to qualify for the Indy 500.
However, Arrow McLaren SP have signed him for the 2020 Indy 500 as he continues to pursue the Triple Crown of Motorsport. Only the late Graham Hill has won all three races of the Triple Crown: the Indy 500, the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Alonso needs only an Indy 500 victory to join Hill, as he is a two-time winner of the other two races.
Hendrick Motorsports are a Chevrolet team, and Alonso’s ties with Chevrolet were only strengthened two years ago when he took the #48 Chevrolet for a test run in Bahrain.
Believe it or not, before Justin Allgaier drove the #48 Chevrolet as the replacement for Johnson this past Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway due to Johnson’s positive COVID-19 test, Alonso had been the only driver to drive the car other than Johnson since Johnson began competing in the Cup Series in 2001.
So as ironic as it seems, there is no driver other than Johnson whose ties to the #48 car itself have been stronger than Alonso’s at any point throughout the last two decades.
It won’t happen. But can you imagine if it did?