By admin | May 28, 2010
By Richard Allen
In a recent interview with Speed’s Wendy Venturini, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith indicated that the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 ought to work more closely together in an attempt to help draw attention to both races.
One suggestion Smith made that would no doubt serve to garner plenty of attention was the possibility of paying any driver who could win both races, which are contested on the same day, a bonus of $20 million. Yes, that’s right, $20 million.
As Darrell Waltrip put it, “Even today that’s a lot of money.”
Who wouldn’t want to give it a shot? A number of drivers who compete in NASCAR have Indy experience. Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish are former winners of the big race. Robby Gordon, John Andretti and Tony Stewart have attempted the double duty workload. In 2001, Stewart actually completed all 1,100 miles of racing.
A number of other drivers grew up with Indy aspirations. Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and others at one time had hopes of winning at ‘The Brickyard’. And of course, the biggest potential attention getter of all would be Danica Patrick if she were to attempt a run at the double.
In 2005, Indy officials moved the start time of their race back to 1:00pm which makes the double almost impossible due to the travel time involved between the two events. In order for anyone to have a legitimate shot at winning both races on the same day the start times would have to be adjusted.
The start times are just one hurdle that would have to be cleared to make this possible. But, it could prove to be a significant hurdle. Since the races are not broadcast by the same television and radio networks, there could well be trouble in getting everyone on board with an idea that might ultimately hurt their own ratings. Fox and ABC are not in the business of helping each other so it would probably take a good bit of negotiating to get both to agree to a change, especially since anyone actually pulling this off is so unlikely.
For another thing, every car that runs the Indy 500 has a Honda engine. NASCAR manufacturers Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and especially Toyota would no doubt have issues with one of their drivers being so prominently associated with a competitor’s brand.
Also, what if a driver intent on doing both were to actually win in Indy? Again, there is the possibility of conflict. Needless to say, the victory lane time for the Indy winner would have to be significantly reduced. But, there are a number of sponsors who expect the Indy winner to have his or her picture taken wearing their hat, etc…
And lastly, any delay for rain, track repairs or any other reason in Indy would put the whole plan in jeopardy.
The offer of $20 million for any driver who could win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day is an intriguing one. And, it certainly gives a handful of drivers 20 million reasons to consider an attempt at the daily double. Unfortunately, it looks as if there almost as many reasons why it can’t happen. With that said, I would love to see someone pull it off. It would be great for all of auto racing if it could be done.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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