The Indianapolis 500 is one of the most prestigious motorsport races in the world but despite that it does not get as much media attention and fans as the Formula One does. This year however, things are a little different and that's all down to two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.
The McLaren driver shocked the world when he announced that he would be competing in the Indy 500 this year driving for Andretti Autosport.
Ever since his announcement, the Indy 500 has received a lot more media attention and has attracted a lot more fans than ever before. Alonso is one of the most popular Formula One drivers and has a huge fan base and those fans will certainly be excited to see how he performs in the race this weekend.
The Spaniard is set to start from fifth on Sunday and apart from more fans pouring in, reports say that at least 150 new credential requests from international media members have come in solely to cover Alonso's running at the Indy 500.
During a recent media day, Alonso was not even visible due to the number of people surrounding him with cameras and microphones. When he walked out after the session's conclusion, reporters continued to ask him questions and it only stopped after he entered his car and drove off.
Circuit chairman Doug Boles said in a recent interview that having Alonso at the Indy 500 this year has benefitted them a lot in terms of the buzz. He continued by saying that the most important part about his participation was the way he embraced it.
"I sat in the grandstands for the first five-six runs of the Fast Nine qualifying on Sunday. The excitement our fans had for Fernando participating was amazing, because of his excitement in participating. It's endeared him to our fan base," ESPN quoted Boles as saying.
While Alonso has certainly has certainly helped increase his own popularity by participating in the Indy 500, Boles feels that he has also done wonders for the international recognition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy 500.
Meanwhile, Alonso will be looking to replicate what Alex Rossi did last year and win the Indy 500 as a rookie and the fact that Rossi did it after starting 11th on the grid could be good news for the Spaniard. As Alonso gets mentally ready for the big day on Sunday, he said that he does not have a plan for the beginning of the race and cannot guarantee that he will play it safe.