1,100 miles. Just the number seems daunting. Driving it all in one day, over nine hours with speeds upwards of 220-mph makes it nearly an impossible feat.
But it can be done.
This year, you'd think that with the hubbub surrounding
The excitement stopped back in 2005, when Indianapolis changed the start time of its 500-miler from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. EST. Blaming sagging TV ratings on the switch, the IRL made it all but impossible for stock car faithful to double dip. With a typical Indy race lasting just under three and a half hours -- plus a one-hour helicopter ride to Charlotte -- no one could realistically expect to make the Coca-Cola 600 start time of 5:45 EST.
Considering NASCAR was at its peak back then, the rumor that the IRL didn't like stock car specialists pulling the double and stealing the national spotlight makes sense. But four years later -- in the face of declining interest and ratings for both series -- it's about time to put grudges aside, and change the time back to 12 p.m..
Just think of the possibilities and national publicity at stake for racing. With open-wheel superstars flocking to NASCAR in recent years, the list of drivers capable of pulling off double duty is nearing double digits.
The extra drivers would also beef up an Indy field lacking the Bubble Day drama of recent years. In 2009, just three drivers missed the 33-car starting lineup. But if you add another half-dozen guys into the mix, it turns the final day of qualifying from a yawner into a full-fledged frenzy. Can you imagine the drama of Stewart flying in from his All-Star Race win to try and slip into the field on Indy's final day? Fans would flock to the rack by the thousands to see it ... and the TV ratings would likely follow suit.
Making this fix would seem to be easy with all the potential upside. Yet with all the criticism leveled at NASCAR this season, fault for this one clearly falls on IMS. Even with a lower number of caution flags, the Coca-Cola 600 doesn't end until well past 10:00 EST -- so making a later start time for NASCAR is near impossible. Over at Indy, a noon start time would be late enough for West Coast viewers to still tune in (9:00 a.m.), while giving the NASCAR crowd the extra hour needed to make the trip.
As if there were any doubt, Stewart, Gordon, and others have made it clear they'd love to have another try at Indy. All they're looking for is a little help from the open-wheel crowd to make it happen.
Let's hope they get that chance in 2010.
NASCAR's 12-race suspension of
So much for Silly Season paying off. Besides Stewart-Haas Racing's early season success, the 2008 free agent class has been busy falling flat in their new rides.
Clark is excited, however, about some of the other opportunities that are in place for selected races in the summer and Fall. "The Ford people have been in contact with us weekly and are really excited about the team. We're looking at a Hispanic network and programming opportunities to feature our team, as well as a possible cartoon in the works. We are going to make an announcement about partnering with a major viral TV network that has 35-45 million homes and counting. So, someone is recognizing the value we bring to the table, and before long we will be a major team to be reckoned with."