Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stock Car Star Looking To Attempt IRL Race

It appears that a stock car star could soon be making his debut in an IZOD IndyCar Series race, just not Indy. This from motorsports writer, Norris McDonald:

....Yes, some pretty good open-wheel people have had difficulty making the adjustment to stock cars. Dario Franchitti just couldn’t do it, that’s true. But the rest of them acquitted themselves pretty well, in my books (okay, they didn’t win races but when was the last time Dale Jr. was in Victory Lane?)

My point – yes, there’s one coming – is that we’ve never had an example of anyone going the other way. We’ve never (in recent years, anyway) had a stock car racer of the first rank switch over and try to drive open-wheel cars.

Until now.

The news today is that – although I can’t name the driver and I can’t name the series and I can’t name the team – is that one of the stars of NASCAR (hint: he’ll be one of the 24 racing in the Budweiser Shootout, a.k.a. Bud Crashfest, at Daytona tonight – FOX, TSN2 at 8 p.m.) is negotiating with an open-wheel team to drive in a race sometime this season.

The deal is in the early stages, but the driver has told the team owner that he’s always thought about doing it and the only condition is that it would have to be at a track he’s familiar with so he could just pretty much jump in the car and get out there.

A deal is still not set, but it's still a very interesting scenario. After counter checking the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule with the Cup schedule, only a couple races make since:

Brazil - Not Familiar
St. Pete -Not Familiar
Barber - Not Familiar
Long Beach -Not Familiar
Kansas - Cup Race Same Day
Indy - Cup Race Same Day
Texas - Possible but Cup Race Next Day
Iowa - Cup Race Same Day
Watkins Glen - Possible but Cup Race Previous Day
Toronto -Not Familiar
Edmonton - Not Familiar
Mid-Ohio - Not Familiar
Infineon - Possible but Cup Race Previous Day
Chicagoland - Possible With Off Week For Cup
Kentucky - Possible but Cup Race Next Day
Twin Ring Motegi - Not Familiar
Homestead - Possible but Cup Race Next Day

Assuming he'll want to race on an oval, only Texas and Chicagoland meet the drivers criteria, and if it's a race early in the season like the article said, only Texas makes since. Remember, in 2008 Earnhardt jr. was offered $100,000 by Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage to run the tracks Open-Wheel round.

Drivers in Bud Shootout without previous IndyCar experience:
  • Kevin Harvick
  • Kasey Kahne
  • Jamie McMurray
  • Kyle Busch
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Jeff Gordon
  • Joey Logano
  • Brian Vickers
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Jeff Burton
  • Jimmie Johnson
  • Ken Schrader
  • Greg Biffle
  • Matt Kenseth
  • Carl Edwards
  • Bobby Labonte
  • Ryan Newman
  • Mark Martin
  • Michael Waltrip
  • Kurt Busch
  • Derrike Cope


Kyle Busch Tony?

Not a chance.

Assuming this story isn't more hot air than substance I have to remark your list of possible drivers isn't complete. Not to mention the story referenced doesn't say a "debut" is in the offing.

John Andretti was entered and competed in the in Bud Shootout Saturday. He has no full time ride in NASCAR, he's only entered in the Daytona 500 and at the Charlotte Spring event, and needless to say has IndyCar experience.

If you want to go "tree barking" I'd suggest you bark up Andretti's tree, if any.


I left off 3 drivers, Stewart, J. Andretti, and R. Gordon because the article says that the driver has "always thought about doing it". Those 3 have already done it, so they don't make since for this situation.

I don't know. I think Kyle is a pretty good guess since he did a one-off in a random Grand-Am race for Ganassi, he's young (can't envision an old guy like Martin doing it), he actually counts as a star (not all the Shootout drivers do...), and he was laughably rumored to the USF1 team eventually, and they'd probably want him to have at least SOME open wheel experience somewhere.

My guess, however, is Jamie McMurray given that he's currently driving for Ganassi, drove for Ganassi outside Cup twice in the 24, and Ganassi owns an IndyCar team. It's debatable whether he's a "star" though. Sure, Kurt Busch is driving for Penske and he is one of the stars, but I don't see Penske entering a fourth car anywhere. I too think you can rule Stewart, Andretti, and Montoya out because they have already done it. Stewart will not possibly race anything besides Indy and Montoya will never race in AOW again (he has a "been there, done that" attitude about CART, IRL, and F1 as I see it). We'll probably see Andretti around, but I doubt he's the driver meant, and I wouldn't call him a stock car star either.

Who do I think we can rule out?

Ken Schrader - too old although he actually DOES have IndyCar experience and attempted the 500 in the 80s
Mark Martin - too old
Derrike Cope - too old, not even good in stock cars
Michael Waltrip - see Cope
Bobby Labonte - too old, washed up
Jeff Burton - pretty much see B. Labonte
Jeff Gordon - too busy and not all that interested in racing outside Cup...he didn't even race in IROC and Busch much, can't see it
Joey Logano - too young..."always wanted to drive an IndyCar" would imply that it would be somebody who's been around a while
Kurt Busch - doubt Penske would let him drive for another owner and Penske will not enter a fourth car
Matt Kenseth - has shown minimal interest in other kinds of racing outside stock cars
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - has not shown interest in outside racing since his fiery ALMS crash

I doubt any team other than Penske or Ganassi would bring a Cup driver to Indy, and since Penske won't expand, I think it's going to be Ganassi. That's why I picked McMurray as my favorite and Kyle as my second favorite. I wouldn't rule any of the following out though:

Ryan Newman - comes from an open wheel background, still young, Tony Stewart connection
Kasey Kahne - comes from an open wheel background, still young, loves wide-open superspeedways
Brian Vickers - because I could see Red Bull doing a one-off somewhere as goofy a sponsor as they have been over the years; I'd really like to see Red Bull back in IndyCar
Jimmie Johnson - though not known as versatile, he's as likely to race outside Cup as anyone these days, definitely fits star power
Greg Biffle - kind of old but actually drove in a bunch of open wheel formulae (Barber Dodge Pro and I even think British F3), which nobody really knows
Carl Edwards - has the potential to be versatile and maybe had his interest piqued after an upset of Michael Schumacher in the Race of Champions
Denny Hamlin - I don't have a good reason for
not ruling him out but I'm not ruling him out
Kevin Harvick - see Hamlin

This was going to be one of Tim Cindric's side projects during the winter. No takers?

I would have guessed Casey Mears but he is not in your list of Drivers. He doesn't have a full year deal.

Sean, I doubt it's with Penske or Ganassi, I think Andretti and Panther are more likely.

I agree with most everything you said but I don't think Newman is a possability. He's never wanted to run Indycar. And, I think, as weird as it sounds, Waltrip may be interested.

But, to be quite honest, I have no clue who the driver or team is gonna be, but I think it's gonna be one of the following:

-Ky. Busch

I just thought Penske or Ganassi because I wouldn't see a team that doesn't also participate in Cup choosing to hire a Cup driver, but I suppose pretty much any Cup driver is well-funded enough to do a ride-buy pretty much anywhere. And you'd think Penske would have learned from Hornish in Cup and Ganassi from Franchitti, realizing that you need more lower level experience to succeed. Yeah, Montoya didn't have much, but he also is an otherworldly talent and one of the top drivers anywhere in the last decade, so...

When I started reading, my first reaction was Kasey Kahne. I'm not sure if I still think that, but this is interesting anyway...

My guess is the team is Panther. Many years ago, Panther talked seriously to Kyle Petty about running Atlanta. He wanted to do it, but it didnt work out.

I could see either Harvick or Dale Jr. being the driver. Dale Jr. because of the National Guard connection and Harvick because he has always wanted to race an Indy Car (his childhood hero was Rick Mears).

My gut says Vickers. But McMurray seems more like an IZOD guy. Kahne would be good for IIRL. I hate to think how bad Kyle Busch would hurt himself in an Indycar; the way he throws his heavy stock car around. If he did that in an Indycar, he'd be in rehab just like Vitor.

Fascinating. I am really purprised to hear that they are targeting another race than the 500. I would think that the Indy 500 would be the only reason a big name NASCAR driver would be willing to cross the aisle to open wheel. From an sponsorship & exposure standpoint, (which I am assuming would have to figure into the decision) it's hard to imagine a one off at Infineon, or Kansas getting much airplay.

From an IRL perspective, the bigger the name, the better.

Of course, if history is any indication, maybe NASCAR is refering to Danica? I think DW mentioned that NASCAR is where she got her start, along with all of their other contributions to motorsports ;-)

Kudos to the driver, whoever it is, if this does work out. In an era of contracts/sponsorship/engine manufacturer "conflicts of interests" this driver is stepping out and saying, "why not." If it works out, good. If it doesn't, not a big deal. It is fascinating to see the views posted here - the "Nascar" fan appears pretty concerned that a driver may be considering an opportunity to see what 220 mph feels like! While the Indycar fan is clear to point out that age is definitely a prerequisite for driving an Indycar.

Great work with the piece, as always, James.

kahne he said love to race indycar on speedfreak or jeff gordan because of canadaian motor speedway terry angstadt ruin this season for everyone all the dumb road racing

brent sherman he did the light and came second in miami

kasey kahne also has an expiring contract. RPM would probably let him run the indycar race just to keep him happy in hopes of resigning him. richard petty had an ownership role at the 500 last year. kahne would defiantly bring in the sponsors. last year during the coke 600 rain delay he mentioned wanting to race the 500 sometime.

I dont think toyota would let kyle race in a honda.

harvick's contract with rcr is up at the end of 2010, but he has connections with chevy as a car owner in the nationwide series and truck series. who knows how much influence they can have on him

Well lets look at this for a second. We can rule out Tony Stewart, and Robby Gordon for sure. If I had to narrow it down it would be

A:Kyle Busch(that word has been going around for awhile)
B:Brian Vickers(he has the Red Bull Connection)
C:Jamie Mac(he drives for Chip)

Those are the only three I can see that might do it. I honestly can't see any of the others doing it.

I strongly suspect that if this is true, it's Harvick at Infineon. Why? I remember him saying in an interview that he'd love to give it a go at a road course, but the Sonoma IndyCar race keeps conflicting with a Cup race. I can't recall where the interview was (maybe Wind Tunnel?), but I do distinctly remember hearing him say it.

This year, Infineon is the day after the Bristol night race, and Cup has an off weekend after that, leading up to Labor Day at Atlanta.

If Harvick wants to take a spin at Sonoma in an IndyCar, that would be the day to do it.

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