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Letter To Fernando

Fernando Alonso watches the final warmup from the Andretti Autosport pit stand at Barber Motorsports Park. [Photo by: Christopher Owens]

Fernando Alonso watches the final warmup from the Andretti Autosport pit stand at Barber Motorsports Park. [Photo by: Christopher Owens]

by Allan Brewer

Dear Fernando Alonso,

How surprised and excited I was to hear you are attending the 101st Indianapolis 500 as an entrant next month! Welcome to America (again)! Welcome to Indianapolis (again)!

As a native of this great land I thought it might be well for me to give you a few pointers to enhance your visit this time. After all, it was a decade ago that you last rocketed around our countryside with the U.S. Grand Prix and much has changed . . . or at least will be very, very different this time around.

First of all, you are going to be the biggest celebrity you can imagine! We don’t get Formula 1 World Champions gracing our fair city, and our sporting series, very often. Expect, and accept, the enormous attention and endless questions about the differences between the Dallara/Honda and the McLaren/Honda. Know ahead of time that people will express surprise that you are shunning the Grand Prix of Monaco for our beloved Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Nod gracefully when someone tells you for the fiftieth time that “the start of the Indianapolis 500 is the most exciting moment in motorsports.”

After the cliché-makers finish with you, though, it is essential for you to have some basic understanding of Indianapolis and of Indiana before you arrive for the month of May. Yes, I saw you down in Alabama and know you have been exposed to the IndyCar way of doing business already—but there’s no way I can explain Alabama to you. I know that much before I even start. So let’s start with a reasonably normal demographic: IndyCar in the context of Hoosiers and American open-wheel oval-track race fans, both groups you will soon grow to love for their straight talk, their simple logic and provincial tastes.

One of the first things you will have to do during your stay here is to modify your dietary routine. I’ve been told that you prefer a high-protein and copious-hydration regimen (translated means baked salmon and lots of mineral water). Unfortunately, short of having a personal chef trailing around behind you it is unlikely you will find such a regimen practicable in the new world. It’s not that we don’t have access to salmon, and to Perrier water . . . it’s just not looked upon as a manly man’s sort of meal. And let’s face it, Fernando, who would want to dine on fish and water when you can sink your teeth into a fried pork tenderloin sandwich and wash it down with a cold Budweiser?

I hear your protests: too much meat, too much cholesterol, too much alcohol, too many empty calories. All that aside, you have to admit it tastes (and drinks) pretty good. Would you like fries with that, Fred?
Rather than regale you with other culinary highlights around the central Indiana area, like fried Snickers and ribeye sandwiches and eat-it-off-the-bone turkey drumsticks, I’m just going to lurch forward into some of our customs around the race and the racetrack.

Because IndyCars don’t run in the rain, or the extreme cold, at the Speedway (learn to refer to Indianapolis as simply “the Speedway” and they’ll love you here) you will find yourself becoming very familiar with your weatherman. Some say that our fear of precipitation is rooted in fear for drivers’ safety while circulating on slicks around a concrete-walled enclosure at 240 miles per hour in the rain, but the real reason is we just don’t like rainy days. And we don’t like cold days, very much. And we don’t like it when the rain and the cold are being thrown around by brisk winds—at all. For what other reason would we put a roof over our football field? And play our most popular wintertime sport, basketball, in Costco-sized, climate-controlled warehouses all over the state of Indiana?

Know this about us, Fernando: we enjoy our creature comforts. I pledge to you that if it is raining on race day that I and a whole lot of other people will say “Thank you, Jesus, for our cable TV” and stay home and watch it rain on our 95-inch big-screen flat-panel for the duration of Memorial Day.

A word about our “victory celebration,” Fernando—it doesn’t involve champagne or national anthems. The only national anthem you will hear is the “Star, Spangled Banner.” The only regional anthem you will hear is “Back Home Again in Indiana.” You will hear both of them before the race, but not after.

In a similar vein, our run-up to race-day will involve some peculiarly Midwestern traditions, such as the American Dairy Association’s Rookie Luncheon where you will meet the Hoosier Dairy Princess and a number of just good ol’ boys and girls who work on the farm day-in and day-out. Yes, you will be a rookie here, Fernando, and those people are already looking forward to seeing you up on-stage with all those very, very young other rookie drivers who to a man (or woman) look absolutely scared to death of public speaking on that day.

Oh, about Carb Day . . . just be prepared when leagues of scantily-clad, drunken, and pretty young women pledge to name their firstborn male child after you, to bear you a love-child heir if you want, and do other things that we can’t print on a family website.

There’s a parade, Fernando. There is a public drivers’ meeting unlike any you have attended before, with thousands of fans sitting there listening to your instructions for how to conduct yourself on race day, clapping and cheering when your name is announced. There will be lots of military around, as Memorial Day is the traditional day America celebrates it Armed Forces for their courage and dedicated service. There will be rainy days where you just sit in your coach or in the garage waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting as the jet-dryers circulate the oval so excruciatingly slowly, lap after lap.

I truly hope you enjoy yourself, and have the time of your life, Fernando. I also hope these tips and secrets will give you a smile over the course of the next month: before, during and after the Indianapolis 500.

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Allan Brewer covers IndyCar and other racing series for RacingNation.com. Allan is a fixture at the race track, armed with keyboard and camera, eager to take you inside open-wheel sport where the news is being made. He comes to RacingNation.com with multiple professional awards from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AWWRBA). He began his motorsports writing career at FastMachines.com; and solely published IndyProRacer.com and A1GP.com, two award-winning websites for open-wheel racing’s junior leagues, prior to becoming IndyCar correspondent at Motorsport.com. He has also covered Formula 1, NASCAR, Formula E, the Indy Lights Series and its predecessor Indy Pro Series, NHRA events and major auto shows. His major interest outside of competition is automotive technology and its application to the cars we drive every day on the public highways.