There’s an uncharacteristic buzz in the post-award banquet world of racing, and it has nothing to do with what Danica Patrick wore to Las Vegas. Championship racing impresario Roger Penske has the chatter class working overtime with his offer of an Indianapolis 500 ride to NASCAR stud Tony Stewart on the same day as the Coca-Cola 600. It’s the first somewhat serious discussion we have had of “doing the double” (racing both races) in some number of years.
Naturally, the offer is drawing more suitors than Pippa Middleton. “Hey, if Tony won’t do it, I will.” Brian Vickers is champing at the bit. Upstart Kyle Larson is game, as are a host of others with a combination of NASCAR and open wheel experience. Heck, who wouldn’t?
It’s got to be Tony Stewart. No one else will do.
Stewart has gravitas; he has the resume. A three-time Cup champion and a veteran Indy Car driver, he commands respect in both series. This is not a driver who will be dismissed as the pawn of a publicity stunt(even if this is what it is). This is a racer, whom, if he does it, will be treated as legit in both events. He won’t go just to show up, he will be a bona fide threat to win.
There’s talk that ABC will accommodate in terms of a start time for the “500.”They would be crazy not to. If Smoke does it, it’s a win for racing in both series. For once, “Looky Lou’s” would be watching for something other than a wreck. At the same we’re learning that auto racing is lumped in with hockey, soccer and golf in terms of popularity (according to a Rasmussen poll), it would be a shot in the arm at a time when the sport needs it.
Of course, that’s easy for me to say, I’m not the one churning out a grueling total of 1,100 miles, with a flight from Indianapolis to Charlotte sandwiched in between. That’s to say nothing of transitioning from an open wheel to a stock car. It sounds easy in theory, but it takes mad skills.
That’s why Tony Stewart needs to do the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 double. Considering his hero is four-time Indy Car winner and winner of seven NASCAR races A.J. Foyt, he would be a perfect fit for the job.
Jim McCoy is a TV & radio sports reporter and radio play-by-play announcer living in southern Oregon. Favorite quote? "Racing is a sport, the others are just games."