As the Indy 500 Sunday nears, the excitement among car racing fans arrives at its pinnacle. While New Zealander Scott Dixon, who is seeking a second win in the race, took the pole position, the most commented driver of the moment will be fifth on the starting grid: Fernando Alonso.

The Spanish driver, who twice won the Formula 1 championship, is competing for the first time in the Indy Series. He was released by his team British Mclaren, during the most important race of the F1 season, the fancy Monaco Grand Prix which is held in the streets of the charming, tiny state on the Mediterranean sea.

The decision to compete in a new series came during a struggling year for the McLaren team in Formula 1. So far, following five races, the team is yet to score a single point. As his first time driving professionally an Indy series car, Alonso did a great job qualifying fifth. The challenge of adapting from one series to another is a major hurdle to be overcome.However, a good result this Sunday could lead him to a permanent switch towards Indy in the near future.

Living the experience

The driver acknowledges his lack of experience, especially on oval tracks with very close cars running over 230 miles per hour and this will play a big part in his performance. "I still lack experience in important moments of the race," he said to journalists.

However, given his competitiveness a victory is not to be discarded.

If on the track he made the fifth best lap of the weekend, in the sports betting houses he is the third most probable to win, with odds of 8-1. Fernando Alonso, 35, began his career in Formula 1 in 2001. Four years later, he won two titles in a row, 2005 and 2006, competing with the Renault team.

Since then, although he has always been considered one of the most talented drivers of all time in the series, he failed to add more championships to his trophy shelf.

Controversy in the old world

The reaction of Alonso's peers in Formula 1 was not very friendly. Lewis Hamilton, the three-time champion Mercedes driver, criticized his Spanish counterpart while regarding the Indy series with disdain.

He is quoted by the Spanish "El Mundo," citing EFE, for having said that if Alonso has qualified fifth, and that says a lot about the competitiveness (or lack of) in the series.

101st Indy 500

So far, the most notable episode of the buildup to the race was a terrible accident involving Sebastian Bourdais, who hit the barrier hard and had to undergo surgery to repair his pelvis. Although he won't be racing this Sunday, he will soon be discharged from hospital.

On the starting grid, pole position Scott Dixon will be followed by Ed Carpenter and Alexander Rossi. The second row will feature Takuma Sato, Fernando Alonso and JR Hildebrand. Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Will Power complete the list of the nine best-qualified drivers out of 40 who will compete for the glory of winning America’s most traditional car race.