Andretti drivers enthusiastic about Alonso's Indy 500 run

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Andretti Autosport's other Indianapolis 500 drivers are looking forward to welcoming Fernando Alonso to their ranks.

Marco Andretti called it ''huge.'' Alexander Rossi, last year's winner at IndyCar's biggest race, says ''it's very, very cool.''

The two-time Formula One champion will skip the Monaco Grand Prix next month to compete in IndyCar for the first time as one of Andretti's six cars in the field.

''He wants to be able to taste something again,'' Marco Andretti said. ''He wants to be able to have a shot at victory and he wants a challenge. He's a racer. He always has been and always will be. A lot of people are saying, `Man, he's crazy,' or this and that. I think it's admirable. If you're a race car driver, that's what you should want to do.''

Alonso is scheduled to arrive at Barber Motorsports Park ahead of Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The 35-year-old Spaniard will be a spectator for this one.

Rossi can speak to the challenge of the McLaren driver's transition, since he headed to Europe at age 17 to pursue his own F1 dream. He made five starts in 2015 before moving back to the United States.

''I don't think anyone ever expected someone to give up Monaco, just because that's their crown jewel race,'' Rossi said. ''I think it's very, very cool that it's happening. I think it shows the significance and the importance and the relevance of the Indy 500. I'm glad that McLaren allowed him to do it, and it's a huge opportunity for us as a team, for Honda and for the sport in general.''

Rossi and Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay both spoke of the challenge for Alonso in adapting to an oval race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

''Just driving around an oval is the biggest thing,'' Rossi said. ''He'll adapt to the car, adapt to the speed. It's just knowing the little intricacies that go along with it that guys who have 10 to 15 years of experience just know.''

Added Hunter-Reay: ''There's very specific things that you would do on an oval that you would never do in Formula One or road racing in general. The good thing about Indy is he has some time to just take it all in and not feel rushed. That's very important that he doesn't feel rushed. I certainly think he has the talent to adjust, adapt and get on with it.''

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More AP auto racing: www.racing.ap.org

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