What is the Triple Crown of Motorsports
For as much discussion as there has been surrounding the Triple Crown of Motorsports, it’s an unofficial achievement. Winners do not receive a physical trophy, but they do receive prestige. The feat itself is very challenging; requiring an individual driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the Monaco Grand Prix, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There does exist an alternative definition of the Triple Crown, which swaps out the Monaco Grand Prix with Formula 1 Championship. I disagree with this definition. Part of what makes the Triple Crown a unique accomplishment is that each race provides a different challenge to the drivers. Le Mans is a pure show of endurance. Monaco’s course provides some of the most challenging turns, elevations changes, and a tunnel. Then of course there is the Indianapolis 500, the race that will challenge every inch of a driver.
There is currently only one driver who has won the Triple Crown: Graham Hill. Hill won the Monaco Grand Prix in 1962 (amount other times); the Indianapolis 500 in 1966; and 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1972 completing the Triple Crown. Other names of drivers now retired have come close. Both A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti have won two out of three of the races. Foyt only needed to win Monaco and Andretti needed to have only won Le Mans…but saying “only needed” seems to cheapen how tough this achievement is. One man has won, thirteen men have won two-thirds of it, and of those thirteen only two men now have a viable chance of becoming the next Triple Crown champion. Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonso.
Who Can Win
Montoya is a two time Indianapolis 500 winner (2000 and my first year to see the race in person, 2015) and won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003. All that is left is a win at Le Mans for Montoya. In 2018 he competed in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans receiving a seventh place finish overall and a third place finish in the LMP2 class. Montoya, after a long and storied career in all types of motorsports, now is focused on endurance racing as he spent 2018 as a driver in the Acura Team Penske WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
Alonso…Alonso is the reason the internet sometimes stops working for hours on end because he tweets out something cryptic. It was Fred Watch until recently when he indicated he wasn’t going to do a full season of INDYCAR in 2019. What he didn’t rule out though – was another run at the Indianapolis 500. That’s all he has to do (okay again making it sound so banal that winning the Indy 500 is a walk in the park). He won the Monaco Grand prix in 2006 and this season pulled off a win in his debut race at 24 Hours of Le Mans.
It’s unsure if we’ll see a Triple Crown of Motorsports champion crowned in 2019. Montoya can focus everything on endurance racing, setting himself up for a strong attempt in the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans (should he have a ride). Alonso is finishing out his career in F1 and presumably is focusing on WEC next season, though we’re actually not sure. Regardless he won’t be in INDYCAR nor Formula 1. While he may have more time to train for the Indianapolis 500, he won’t have that open-wheel skill set fresh when he steps back into an INDYCAR next year. Yes I’m all ready calling that Alonso will attempt the Indianapolis 500 next year. Me and everyone else paying even the slightest attention to these stories have called that.
I enjoy the lure of the Triple Crown. It’s a very demanding achievement and anyone who wins all three races is deserving of a special championship title. Other racing disciplines have their own version of a Triple Crown. Here in America our triple crown is determined to be the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and either the 12 Hours of Sebring of the 24 hours of Daytona (both Foyt and Andretti have won all of those races, Montoya has won all except the 12 Hours of Sebring). INDYCAR itself used to have a Triple Crown, which contained all the 500 mile races: Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana and well that ended in 2015. We talked about what would make a good new Triple Crown over a year ago, and so if you’ve made it to the end of this entry let me know: what would you like to see as the new INDYCAR Triple Crown?