Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford has become a McLaren-Honda-Andretti ambassador as part of Fernando Alonso's rookie attempt at the iconic race.

The 79-year-old won the Indy 500 on two occasions with McLaren as well as being crowned IndyCar World Series champion in 1980. The 'Lone Star JR', who won the 1974 and 1976 races in the orange of McLaren, will take on marketing and media responsibilities as Alonso races at this year's Indy 500 - having made shockwaves around the motorsport world by skipping the Monaco Grand Prix.

Rutherford says he was 'blown away' when he found out McLaren was reviving its traditional Indy 500 challenge as Alonso hunts part two of his Triple Crown and is relishing the opportunity to become part of the team again.

"The McLaren name still means a lot to me - it has a very special place in my heart, in fact, for obvious reasons," Rutherford said. "So when I heard that not only was McLaren heading back to Indianapolis - after a near 40-year absence, and with Fernando Alonso behind the wheel, and that they would also be reviving the same, famous orange livery that was made famous by Bruce McLaren himself in the 1960s and '70s - well, I was blown away. That's just neat, real neat...

"I'm thrilled and excited about 'coming home' to McLaren for the famous month of May, and I want to do everything I can to help make the team's return to Indy as enjoyable and successful as possible. Make no mistake, this is a fantastic story for IndyCar, for Formula 1 and for motor racing in general, so to be able to help play a small part in it is just fantastic.

"And the fact that McLaren is doing it in partnership with Andretti Autosport is the icing on the cake: the name 'Andretti' means a lot to all racing people, and certainly to me. Not only has the team boss, Michael, achieved so much over his long career, but of course I raced his father, the great Mario, wheel to wheel for many years. I have great respect for both of them."

McLaren chief Zak Brown has welcomed Rutherford with open arms to the project and hopes his experience, advice and personality can bring an extra boost to Alonso's goal of winning the Indy 500 in his rookie attempt.

"You can count the number of people who've won more Indy 500s than Johnny Rutherford on the fingers of one hand - and that tells you everything about the scale of Lone Star JR's achievements in this legendary motor race," Brown said. "It's incredible that we'll be joined at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway throughout the month of May by one of the forefathers of McLaren's original Indy adventure.

"Furthermore, Johnny is a real Southern gent, and somebody who knows the nature of this particular race and the Speedway like few others in the sport. To have him onboard and alongside us as we take on this ambitious project makes me feel both humbled and excited - he'll be a fantastic asset to us all as we return the McLaren name to Indy."