I realize how this might sound coming from the guy who just said the Indy 500 is better off without Danica Patrick, but I loved Roger Penske hi-jacking the NASCAR awards ceremony to offer Tony Stewart a ride in the Indy 500.
In one public comment Roger Penske managed to do what few have been able to done, generate positive publicity and prove the Indy 500 still has credibility and holds a place in the sporting world that NASCAR drivers crave. With all the excrement hitting the fan this off season with the firing of Randy BernardPenske masterfully reminded people of just how awesome the Indy 500 is.
In case you didn’t hear Penske looked at Stewart and made the comment “I know we took your spot this year, but you’re a car owner, you’re a race driver, you’re a track promoter. How about doing the double at Indy this year? Are you available?” While it may have been a joke Penske later assured reporters that no, he had in fact been discussing it and wants to make it happen.
Since then ABC offered moving up the race’s start time to accommodate Tony Stewart, or any other NASCAR driver, who wants to do it. Chevy provides engines to both Indycar and NASCAR, there is some sponsor overlap, for the first time since Robby Gordon did it in 2003.
While Stewart hasn’t responded publicly as of my writing this a number of other drivers have said they’d take Penske up on his offer including NASCAR driver Brian Vickers, who at this point only has nine Cup races on his schedule (And his Month of May is clear) tweeted out this.
I'm not sure if Tony will accept Mr Penskes offer for the Indy 500, but I sure would!
— Brian Vickers (@BrianLVickers) December 3, 2012
There’s have been a number of efforts to get NASCAR drivers to race at Indy in the May, not July. A lot of it has just generated fan discussions but allegedly Vickers was trying to get a seat in 2012. In 2011 Jimmy Vasser tweeted out this picture of a “contract” Jimmy Johnson signed promising to run the 2012 Indy 500 “If I have my wife’s approval.”
Yes, I said Indycar is better off without Danica Patrick. Yes, a number of Danica Patrick’s fans took exception to that comment. I feel the need to explain why I’m excited about the possibility of Stewart running the Indy 500. Smoke has one thing that Danica Patrick doesn’t have: credibility. Stewart owns Eldora Speedway, three Cup championships, one IRL championship and 47 NASCAR wins. Danica Patrick has one top-level win against a short field.
I’m not saying that Patrick doesn’t have credibility, it’s just that she doesn’t have near as much as Stewart. At this point in her career her media savvy has overshadowed her one win. Stewart has credibility as a champion and a passionate advocate for his sport. Patrick isn’t there yet. Also there’s a petition for Smoke to do the double, no such outpouring of support for Danica. That, and Penske didn’t offer her the ride, probably for a good reason.
I’d welcome Stewart doing the double, as would most Indycar drivers, Vickers too. Let’s take it one step forward A.J. Allmendinger supposedly has a Cup ride lined up and is in need of a redemptive moment, doing the double could make people forget about his drama last year. There could be fast cars available KV Racing, Ganassi Racing and Schmidt Hamilton Racing. As a fan I want to challenge those owners to not just find drivers to put in those seats, but find the biggest names you can and remind people what is the greatest spectacle in racing.
If you would like to voice your support for Tony doing the double go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway website and sign the Smoke 2 Indy petition.