Roger Penske offered Tony Stewart a ride at this year’s Indianapolis 500 from the stage at NASCAR’s Awards Ceremony last Friday night in Las Vegas when he was making his championship owners speech. What it has done is create a lot of debate over whether other drivers should try to attempt the double at the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. Of course for all of it to happen IndyCar would have to move the time of the Indy 500 up. Motorsports 101 debates whether NASCAR drivers should be looking to participate in the race.
Full-Time Sprint Cup Drivers Should Pass on the Opportunity – By Mark Eddinger
It has always been Tony Stewart’s dream to win the Indianapolis 500 but it was a dream that he gave up when he decided to take the leap into NASCAR. In 1999 and 2001 he competed in both races on the same day but has not attempted it since. Stewart has not made a comment about Penske’s offer yet and has last been quoted as saying he would not race the Indy 500 because of his commitment to his NASCAR obligations at Charlotte on the same day.
It is a decision that he should stand by. Other drivers took to twitter in order to express their feelings toward wanting to race in the Indianapolis 500. Among them were Chip Ganassi Racing development driver Kyle Larson, who made several Camping World Truck Series starts for Turner Motorsports at the end of the 2012 season, Conor Daly, who spent this year in GP3, and Brian Vickers. Vickers tired to get a ride for the 2012 Indy 500 but was unable to partly because of IndyCar's engine shortage.
"I'm serious about Indy. Would do it in a heartbeat, was not just tweeting to be funny," Vickers said Monday.
For drivers like Stewart who are established stars in NASCAR and have huge obligations to their sponsors and teams it does not make sense for them to try to run the double. The risk of injury that would force them out of action in NASCAR is something that they should not risk. But for drivers like Larson, who is a young up and comer, and Vickers, who does not have a Sprint Cup Series seat for the Coca-Cola 600 anyway, the Indy 500, is a distinct possibility and should be something they are looking into trying to do.
ESPN on ABC has the rights to the Indianapolis 500 broadcast and have already made it clear that they would try to get the race moved up if they could get a NASCAR star or two to compete in the race. The last two Indy 500’s have had fantastic finishes and the 2012 race was a great one from start to finish. The addition of NASCAR drivers to the field would no doubt bring more exposure and eyes to the race but it would mean the IndyCar Series would be giving into NASCAR. The later start time for the 500 seems to be a good thing for the series and is something they for sure would like to keep.
The fact remains that if the IndyCar Series does not agree to move the race time up then there is no possibility that a Sprint Cup driver can race both. It is probably the way things should stay.
An Emphatic No for Multiple Reasons – By Clayton Caldwell
No! The race fan in me says yes, but no. They shouldn’t.
If anyone has ever watched the Indianapolis 500 it is a long almost three week show if you include all the qualifying and practice days. If a NASCAR driver were to do it, those would be important weeks for a big name Cup driver to miss.
Think of it this way for a second. If a Cup driver were to run both races they would not only sacrifice time from Charlotte and the important Coca-Cola 600, but also the two weekends previous in the schedule. They would jeopardize, the Southern 500 at Darlington and the Coca-Cola 600. Now in-between those races is the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star race which is not a big deal for a driver to miss some time. Although I am not sure how NASCAR would feel about big named drivers missing or not running practices at Charlotte for the All-Star Race just because they want to run in the Indianapolis 500.
The last time a driver did both races in the same day was Tony Stewart in 2001. Stewart missed the drivers meeting and had to move to the back due to the infraction. He would battle back to finish in the third position but Stewart would claim that he was so tired at the end of the day that it looked like there were two yellow lines on the bottom of the race track and he could hardly hold his head up. He was overcome by heat exhaustion and almost passed out due to fatigue.
Is that good for the sport to have someone running around like that? Is it good for the sport to have a driver who is so tired he can’t see straight and may pass out in the racecar? No. It’s dangerous! Stewart is a hell of an athlete, but he couldn’t keep up with the competition. There’s no way some other drivers could do it.
Besides, the whole point is moot anyway. Indy and their sanctioning body will be embarrassed if a NASCAR driver won the Indianapolis 500. They have too much pride over there and they would never let a driver from another series win their biggest race. It was a fun debate and nice to think about but that’s not going to happen unless the start times change, which neither the 600 nor the 500 will do.
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