An Offer They Can’t Refuse?
After a delay of several months, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard formally announced yesterday what had been known for months. The IZOD IndyCar Series will conclude its season at Las Vegas. Many, including myself, assumed that the delay was simply because IndyCar was taking on the promotion of this race itself. I thought there were simply more legal issues to work through before they could officially announce it. While that may have been partially true, we now know that this announcement came with a twist.
When the IZOD IndyCar Series runs its finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16, there is a very tempting offer on the table for any non-IndyCar driver – five million dollars, to be exact. If any professional driver from another series runs in the IndyCar finale and wins, there is a check for five million waiting for him or her.
Even in this day of ridiculous salaries in professional sports, that’s quite a tidy sum for a day’s work. Of course, we all know that such a feat will take a great deal of work ahead of time just to give a driver a fighting chance. But someone will take Randy Bernard up on his offer.
As predicted, everyone immediately started thinking NASCAR. For years, fans have been clamoring for the likes of Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to run in the Indianapolis 500. Personally, I don’t think that is going to happen. When the Speedway announced this week that they were going to move the start of the Indianapolis 500 up an hour, the possibility of NASCAR drivers suddenly pushing each other out of the way to run Indy is what some were saying on Twitter. It’s going to take more than an hour’s difference to make the double something that NASCAR drivers want to tackle.
I’ll admit that when I heard about the $5 million prize, I immediately checked the NASCAR schedule. Sure enough, NASCAR runs at Charlotte the night before. OK, that frees up Sunday assuming that it doesn’t rain on Saturday night in Charlotte. But will that be enough to make the big names try it. Drivers like Dave Blaney or Robby Gordon might do it, but I seriously doubt that the names most people are thinking of would give it a shot. The days of jumping from one series to the other or swapping manufacturers are pretty much behind us.
If it were 2012, when Chevrolet is back in the ZOD IndyCar Series – it might be feasible. But I don’t see Chevrolet allowing Jimmy Johnson to run in a car powered by anything other than a Chevy. It just isn’t going to happen. Team owners aren’t too keen on seeing their high-priced drivers do anything that might jeopardize their ability to drive for them in NASCAR. As much as I’d like to see Kyle Busch drive an IndyCar, I don’t think Joe Gibbs would allow it for a second.
Don’t get me wrong – I think this is a great idea. There was a lot of buzz created by this yesterday. It brought visibility to the series, which is what Randy Bernard seems to excel in. It had a lot of people talking. That was the intent. But I think a taker is more likely to come from ALMS or Grand-Am, instead of NASCAR or Formula One.
Once again, Randy Bernard has shown his creativity. Somehow, I just can’t imagine his predecessor coming up with anything like this. It’s a pretty safe bet, really. It would be an incredible feat to pull something like that off. Contrary to what Darrell Waltrip might tell you, these cars are not easy to drive. It takes a lot of hard work and an enormous amount of talent to win an IndyCar race. All we’ve seen lately are IndyCar drivers failing to make the transition to NASCAR. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a NASCAR driver try his hand at an IndyCar.
I don’t mean to come off as a wet blanket. I’m really very excited about this offer. It makes IndyCar seem relevant again. I especially liked it when Mr. Bernard said that he was going to put his money where his mouth was, by proclaiming IndyCar drivers to be the best and fastest in the world. But I’m not sure this is going to attract the kind of drivers people are expecting. I certainly credit Randy Bernard for trying, though.
He probably has a very good idea who may or may not give it a try. He doesn’t impress me as someone who tries something on the fly without thinking things through. But as far as top-level NASCAR drivers running in IndyCars in Las Vegas in October; I’m afraid it might be an offer that they will refuse.