Thursday, March 13, 2014

More Double Discussion

With talk of Kurt Busch planning to run the Indy 500/Coke 600 double May 25 still in a lot of people’s minds, the media continues bringing up the idea of IndyCar drivers doing it as well.

Yesterday there was a story written by the AP’s Jenna Fryer that discussed that topic and included some pretty good quotes from both Scott Dixon and Cup rookie Kyle Larson. Unfortunately, on the Sports Illustrated website it was headlined “Are IndyCar Drivers Afraid of the Double?”. 

You can read it here.

But really? Scared? Come on.

Now, Jenna went on Twitter and lamented that headline, and I’m in her corner on this one. There have been more than a few occasions where I’ve facepalmed myself after reading the headline to a story that I have written. While I understand headlines are to attract a read, there have been more than several occasions in my writing career where the headline was totally out of context when compared to what I had written.

Anyway, there was a lot of talk about Dixon (or even Tony Kanaan) doing said double. Not only does it sound like a good fit considering the resume of either, it also makes sense because Chip Ganassi’s sponsors (Target) and engine/car manufacturer (Chevy) makes it an easy fit.

Still, I’m mixed about this…very mixed. On one hand, I think it would be a great opportunity for the right driver. I also think that the lines between the series getting more crossed and drivers from different series becoming friends would help someone going into that situation as they would have immediate respect. 

Guys like Dixon, Kanaan or even James Hinchcliffe come to my mind as guys who have the adaptability and past experience in other types of cars (especially sports cars and even V8 Supercars) to do a pretty decent job.

Therein lies the issue, though. I think all of them can do a pretty decent job, but is that really acceptable?

Let me put it this way: Kurt Busch is going to jump in an IndyCar and is really in a win/win situation. Short of crashing out in the first corner of the first lap, no matter what happens his reputation as a versatile driver will be even more enhanced. And if he runs all 500 miles and finishes, say, in the top 15, that would be called a success.

Regardless of what he does (unless he acts like an ass in doing it), I’m going to admire Kurt for making the effort and trying his hand on this side of the fence. I think he is going to go back to the NASCAR paddock and say “guys, it isn’t as easy as you think it is”.

But what about the other way around? Say an IndyCar driver went to Charlotte and rode around and finished in 30th place? How would that be received? Personally, I think it would be pretty awesome watching an IndyCar driver in the Coke 600 field, regardless of where they finished. Doing the double like running a marathon: it’s all about finishing. Racing 1,100 miles in two cities and under two different racing disciplines in a single day is one sweet accomplishment.

Cup drivers would respect it, and so would true race fans. I just wonder what the average Cup fan would think, and whether or not that would be a good thing. Because if someone went down there, competed hard and finished on the lead lap in 20th place or something, to many it would be another example of an open wheel driver who couldn’t cut it in stock cars.

Two things would make it even more difficult is 1) track time and 2) starting from 43rd place. IndyCar is being more than generous to Busch (as well as Juan Pablo Montoya) in giving them extra practice time to get a little more up to speed. I don’t see that courtesy being extended the other way around. With that in mind, testing time would be limited, and nobody wants to go through all of the preparation and make the effort to just drive around in circles and not enjoy the experience.

Doing it for the challenge is one thing, and even with plenty of prep time it still wouldn't be a level field. But going down there without a chance of being competitive just wouldn't be worth it, especially given the amount of attention and pressure that would come with it too.

Don't also forget the fact that any driver that does the double misses the driver’s meeting, which is a mandatory trip to the back of the field. For a veteran Cup driver like Kurt Busch, that’s not a big deal, he will be able to easily drive his way if not into contention, or at least far enough up to keep himself on the lead lap. An IndyCar driver would be learning as he went, and even an experienced wheelman would have a tough time keeping their head above water until the became comfortable with their surroundings.

I guess maybe I should take my advice from my last post and see it this way...if a driver goes down there and mixes it up with the Cup guys, I shouldn't take any criticism of said driver personally. Everyone has their own reasons (mostly bucket list) for wanting to do something like this, and if they are OK with whatever reaction they get for their efforts, we all should be too.

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