So Danica made me eat my words on Saturday by finishing the Sam’s Town 300 Nationwide race in Las Vegas, a record setting fourth place–but did she?
Ms. Patrick has much going for her. She is an attractive, ambitious racer. She is able to attract sponsor money where others cannot. She gets herself contracted to drive for top-flight teams such as Andretti-Green and JR (Dale Jr.) Motorsports. Her public persona is what modern women are supposed to be–tough, smart, strong and not afraid to play hard with the boys.
We will probably see a significant switch towards NASCAR for Patrick as the Rockford, IL native will probably be in the Sprint Cup Series sooner than later. The reason? Indy Car racing is becoming an anomaly. Despite the significant decline of open wheel racing here in the US, those paddocks have not lost their arrogance.
Case in point: The seemingly concrete tire relationship between the IRL and Firestone comes to a crumbling end this season-for that matter F1 no longer runs on Bridgestones. Firestone should easily had the chance to be involved in the next evolution of the Indy Car–think development dollars–but was essentially locked out. Anyone who gets alienated like that should walk. It would be embarrassing not to.
Maxim Magazine did a piece on Patrick three years ago that suggested that she needed to make the switch, that so many before her have as the tin tops were the only American Racing series that mattered.
Consider all the NASCAR drivers that started out with open wheel dreams of winning the Indy 500: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jacques Villenueve, A.J. Almendinger, Robby Gordon, Sam Hornish Jr.–just to name a few who literally chose one over the other-”cause that’s where the money is…” Consider that for years guys like Mario Andretti, Christian Fittipaldi, A.J. Foyt, The Unser Brothers, Cale Yarborough, split their time between the two series–and proved serious contenders no matter where they were.
Al Unser Sr. recently told me, “I love to race, but unless I can win, I won’t go play in another’s backyard.” Racers love to race. Robert Kubica is sitting out at least the 2011 F1 season due to injuries suffered in a rally crash several weeks ago–due to his inherent nature to just want to go fast…. So why are we not seeing more cross over these days? Contracts, Corporate Dollars, level of competition..the list goes on.
Which leads to what could be a very interesting proposition: The IRL has just offered a$5Million Dollar bonus if an “outsider” can win the season finale at Las Vegas on October 16. This has a few of the former open wheel NASCAR guys considering a run. Tony Stewart and Juan Montoya have played down any participation, citing logistics as the primary issue. NASCAR is running Charlotte Saturday night and the Las Vegas race happens the very next day.
This will undoubtedly attract the Almendingers and Robby Gordons, but at this juncture, the race could prove a well intentioned failure.
Okay so here’s where I get on my pedestal: Great start, IRL, but not enough.
Here’s how I see it:
$100 Million (more than a mid-pack annual F1 budget) in prize money.
The rules are there are no rules. Gas, Diesel, Electric, Hybrid, Pig poop, turbines, jets, winged, non-winged, fenders, no fenders…
No entry fee. Anyone with the balls and the technology can attempt to qualify but must prove that the car has at least the potential to go the distance.
2. Run it at Indianapolis, Daytona or Vegas, with half the race on the oval and the other half on the road course. 700 miles and no driver changes.
3. Throw safety out the window. If a driver wants to win and be safe, let the engineers figure out a way to make this happen and it is up to the racer to convince the engineers that his life is worth it.
Offer a US, EU or Chinese Government engineering contract to the Manufacturer Champ.
Time to up the ante! Have racing and all these people put their money where their mouth is. Tell me you wouldn’t go to or at the very least, watch a race of this magnitude?
Now we just need to find a sponsor….. Come on… A dude can dream, right?