There has been so much made of Tony Stewart and other NASCAR drivers doing the Indy 500 and the Coke 600 why is no one inviting Ryan Hunter-Reay to race in the Daytona 500?
It makes far more sense for RHR to run the Daytona 500 than it does for any NASCAR driver to run in the Indy 500 the scheduling alone makes it easier. There is always two restrictor plate tests before the season, and then there’s speedweeks, two weeks full of practice and racing.
If he got into a car he could participate in three days of “Preseason Thunder,” before driving in the 24 Hours of Daytona. After that he could get a ride in the ARCA race for experience before more Cup and Nationwide Series practice and qualifying.
Hunter-Reay could get further race experience in the qualifying races on Thursday, the truck race on Friday and the Nationwide on Saturday before racing in the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Sure, that is a lot of racing, a lot of expensive racing, but given the media exposure he would draw it wouldn’t be that difficult to find funding, maybe DHL would step up for a race or two. Also the Indycar schedule doesn’t start March 24 and the Daytona 500 is Feb. 24. To me it makes more sense to make a cross-sport foray when you have a month between races, not hours.
Since he’s currently signed a long term deal with Andretti Autosport, which is aligned with Chevy there are at least two teams, Hendrick and Childress, that have the resources to make something like that happen, and would probably be happy to do it. As the current Indycar champ Hunter-Reay would bring a little extra credibility to the Daytona 500 field while promoting himself. He probably doesn’t even need that competitive of a car. At Daytona if you can just keep with the lead pack and avoid the wrecks you will finish well. It sounds like he would like to do it.
We’ve seen the IndyCar drivers go over and put their toe in the water in NASCAR and more times than not it hasn’t looked very good. I really respect what those guys do with those heavy cars, big horsepower, little tires, and I’d love to try it if I had a competitive opportunity.
I know Indycar fans aren’t enthused at the idea of their stars running in the NASCAR series because they think they’ll get a taste of racing with fenders and follow Danica Patrick and Sam Hornish into NASCAR, never to be seen at Long Beach again, but Indycar is stronger now, and opening up the first American Indycar Champion in almost a decade can’t be a bad thing. Beyond that Hunter-Reay is happy to be at Anderetti Autosport and has spoken about the need for an American driver to step up, perhaps this is one way he can broaden his fan base.