I don't know if Roger Penske is a drinker, but I wonder if he was a bit tipsy at the NASCAR season-ending awards banquet in Vegas tonight when he said he would enter a car for the Indy 500 for Tony Stewart if Smoke was so inclined.
As Jenna Fryer reported on Twitter, Penske said Friday: "If he wants to do the double, I'd put him in it. We've talked about it before, I guess I've made it official tonight."
Stewart couldn't be found for a comment, but Fryer did file a follow-up story. Further proving I was wrong when I ripped some of her writing back in the spring. Consider this my apology, Jenna.
Anyway, from the story, another quote from The Captain:
"Where's Stewart?" Penske asked during his speech accepting the Sprint
Cup trophy during NASCAR's season-ending awards ceremony. "How about
doing the double at Indy this year? You available?"
I'm actually surprised a guy like Penske, who is normally pretty guarded in his comments, would make such a public statement, but the idea works for everyone. Penske gets one of the best all-around talents of his generation, Stewart gets a ride with the most successful owner in Indy 500 history and IndyCar gets a ton of publicity.
I don't care what Tony Stewart says, he hasn't ever been able to quit the Indy 500, and though he has won the Brickyard 400 twice, I don't think it's enough. When he was driving a wrecker past the Speedway every day when he was younger, he didn't dream of winning the Brickyard 400. There is little the man has left to accomplish, but I still think Indy is on his bucket list.
If he did jump back in the car and attempt the double, it would be his first time doing so since his epic day in 2001, when he finished 6th at Indy driving for Chip Ganassi then followed that up with a third-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte later that night.
Stewart eschewed any further attempts at running the double, saying he needed to focus on his team and his quest for a championship. Well, now he owns his own team, he's won three championships, and the fact that he brought a truck race to his track at Eldora shows he has some serious clout. He's at the point in his career when he can do it.
And besides, outside of Sam Hornish and Danica Patrick, Stewart is the only other driver in NASCAR who I think could jump in a DW12 and go fast right away. As much as I'd love to see a guy like Jimmie Johnson (who wants to do it, BADLY) try it, the learning curve to run up front -- which would be the only reason to try -- would be too massive without plenty of testing laps, which they just don't have the time commitment to do.
I'd like to see it happen, because as someone who considers himself a fan of Stewart's, I'd love to see him compete in and win the race. Not because of what it might mean to IndyCar, but it's unfortunate to see him not have a win in the 500 on his resume, or a win at the Daytona 500, for that matter.
Yeah, it would also be a good thing for IndyCar. Can you imagine the coverage that would come with this? It would be a huge story that would probably lead to some pretty big ratings on race day. Stewart is a needle-mover, it's that simple.
The hardest thing, and Penske did bring this up as well, is getting the two series together to work this out. NASCAR and IndyCar are like two political parties, and NASCAR isn't all that interested in helping IndyCar in any way, shape, or form. There would be a lot of pieces in this puzzle, and NASCAR would have to be a willing partner. Who the hell knows if that would happen.
Now, I posted a farcical story a couple of years ago about Stewart losing weight to try the double, and judging by what I have seen lately, he would have a lot of work to do to get into the type of condition it would take to run both races. It's been 12 years, the rigors of running both races is tougher, and as I can personally attest, you can't do things at age 42 that you were able to do at 30. Preparing for what the day would do to him physically would be harder for him than getting comfortable with the car.
Still, if everybody is all-in on this one, I'd love to see it happen. Besides, it's the middle of winter and it's fun to talk about, so why not?