Alonso will run familiar No. 66 McLaren at Indy 500

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McLaren Racing has returned to a familiar and successful old friend when it comes to the car number Fernando Alonso will use in the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Alonso will race the No. 66 Chevrolet, a move to honor the No. 66 McLaren that Mark Donohue drove to victory in the 1972 Indy 500 for Team Penske.

McLaren Racing made the announcement on Tuesday.

Alonso, the two-time Formula One champion, returns to the Indianapolis 500 this May after becoming a worldwide sensation with his first attempt at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” two years ago. As a rookie in name only, Alonso and McLaren partnered with Andretti Autosport for the No. 29 entry that he qualified fifth and led for 27 laps before a mechanical failure ended the Spaniard’s day in 24th place. Alonso earned Rookie of the Year honors for the race.

The No. 66 has had a limited but memorable history at the Indianapolis 500. Donohue and Team Penske used the car number six times, starting with the first time the team entered the race 50 years ago. In 1969, Donohue qualified fourth, finished seventh in a Lola and was named Rookie of the Year. Ironically, the team settled on the No. 66 only because Penske’s preferred car number, 6, was already taken that year by A.J. Foyt.

Donohue finished second in the 1970 Indy 500 in another No. 66 Lola before he returned the following year in the iconic dark blue, wedge-shaped No. 66 McLaren M16 that ran alongside the traditional papaya-colored McLarens for Peter Revson and Dennis Hulme. Donohue qualified second, but his race ended early with a transmission issue. A year later, Donohue qualified the No. 66 McLaren third and led only the final 13 laps to deliver the breakthrough victory for team owner Roger Penske and McLaren.

Penske now owns a record 17 Indy 500 triumphs. McLaren added two more with Johnny Rutherford in 1974 and ’76.

The No. 66 has had other storied appearances on the Indy 500. Maverick car maker Preston Tucker, whose life was portrayed in the 1988 film “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” drove the No. 66 in the 1947 race. NASCAR great Cale Yarborough drove the No. 66 in the 1966 race.

In 1986, Ed Pimm drove the No. 66 Mike Curb entry for the Indianapolis 500. The crew chief for that effort was Robert Fernley, who is now president of McLaren IndyCar. Gil de Ferran, now the McLaren sporting director, qualified the No. 66 Team Penske Dallara in the middle of the second row and finished runner-up to teammate Helio Castroneves in the 2001 Indy 500. De Ferran would win the race two years later in the No. 6 Panoz G Force.

The No. 66 has only been raced once in the 500 in the last 17 races, when JR Hildebrand piloted the No. 66 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet to an 11th-place finish last year.

Tickets for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, scheduled for Sunday, May 26, and the INDYCAR Grand Prix set for Saturday, May 11 on the IMS road course are available now at IMS.com. Prices will increase on March 1.

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