By admin | May 2, 2008
Junior vs. Danica: Probably not
By Richard Allen
According to a report by ESPN, Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage is willing to offer Dale Earnhardt, Jr. $100,000 to compete in the June 7th IndyCar race on that track.
NASCAR races in Pocono on June 8th.
“Well, he thinks I’m a cheap date, I guess,” the popular NASCAR driver said in response to Gossageâ€˜s offer.
In many ways Gossage is very much an old school track promoter. Earlier this year he offered money to any driver who would get upset enough to throw a helmet in anger. He does what track promoters are supposed to do, he creates interest in his track.
IndyCar racing has received a run of good publicity due to the recent win by Danica Patrick in Japan.
No doubt, it would be quite a coup for TMS to get Junior to agree to race in the open wheel event. It would also be good for IndyCar racing. For that matter, it would probably even be good for NASCAR.
The one entity in this whole discussion who it would most likely not be good for would be Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Drivers such as Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier have shown that making the conversion from open wheel cars to stock cars is difficult to say the least. Making the conversion from stock cars to open wheel would probably be even more difficult, especially for a driver with no experience in open wheel cars and with virtually no opportunity for practice.
Years ago, Mark Donahue, A.J. Foyt and the Allisons would make the occasional foray into the opposite form of racing. However, with the demanding schedule of 36 points paying races and two exhibition races modern day NASCAR drivers have very little opportunity to check out other forms of racing.
And of course, Tony Stewart, John Andretti and Robby Gordon have done the Indy to Charlotte double in fairly recent history, but each of those drivers had significant open wheel experience.
While the thought of a NASCAR driver taking a shot at an IndyCar race is intriguing, it is probably not the best idea at this time and with this driver.
Still, Gossage is not one to give up easily. “But did he say no? The way I see it the door is still open. We’ll work on it. I’m open to negotiations,â€ he replied when told of Juniorâ€™s seeming disinterest.
Despite Gossageâ€˜s efforts, however, there probably will not be a Junior vs. Danica match up, at least in the IndyCar Series, anyway.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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