Rutherford hopes Alonso is in "awe" of Indy

Three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, who twice won for McLaren, hopes Fernando Alonso will be in “awe” of The Brickyard on race day.

Rutherford hopes Alonso is in "awe" of Indy
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda, Gil de Ferran
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Johnny Rutherford
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda talks to Gil de Ferran
Alexander Rossi, Herta - Andretti Autosport Honda, Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda
Jay Howard, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda

Rutherford, who won for McLaren in 1974 and 1976 and is an ambassador for the marque’s return to the Speedway, wants a repeat of last year’s massive crowd, to make a big impression on the two-time Formula 1 world champion, who will race the McLaren Honda Andretti entry.

“Last year was a throwback [in crowd size] and this year is looking good,” said Rutherford. “This place is incredible. In the days when I first came here, Indianapolis was the largest-attended sporting day event in the world and second on that list was qualifying. “Times change and things change, but I really hope we have a big crowd and Fernando can be in awe of it.

“He runs all over the world in Formula 1 cars and each country has large-attended races, so we’ll see what he thinks about this.”

The 79-year-old, who won his third Indy 500 in 1980 for Chaparral, the year after McLaren pulled out of Indy cars, has also warned Alonso to pace himself during the race on May 28.

“It’s just little things that he needs to think about,” said Rutherford when asked by motorsport.com what his advice will be. He’s a good race driver, so he just needs to think about traffic and some things that can happen.

“This is a long race, 500 miles and three hours so you’ve got to really pace yourself and be in the right place at the right time in the end.

“I’ve always told the rookies, if you can run a good, steady race all day and have good pitstops without any major problems happening, you can finish in the top five here pretty easily.”

Rutherford also joined the chorus of voices impressed with Alonso’s ability to adapt to the challenges of driving at Indianapolis.

“He is a professional race driver, he’s won the world title twice and it shows,” said Rutherford.

“He has done very, very good and whistled right through his [rookie] driver’s test, he ran 220 [mph] I think. Watching his line, it’s perfect; he’s right on. It’s where he needs to be.

“Sometimes he gets a little under the white line with his left-side tires and that can be tricky, but he handles it well. So does everyone else who is running round out there; they are cutting corners a bit.”

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