Welcome to Frontstretch's newest column, "What's the Call?" Every
week, we'll take a controversial topic in the NASCAR world and have two
of your favorite writers duke it out, one-on-one, with their opinion on
the issue. Then, you, the fans, have a chance to comment below and let
us know your thoughts, as well as who YOU think has the better
argument! Let the fun begin!
This Week's Question: It was announced this week that open wheel star Paul Tracy will attempt to qualify in a car provided by Richard Childress, with increasing speculation he could be in a full-time Nextel Cup ride soon. Can Tracy make a quick and easy transition to Nextel Cup cars from open wheel, or will he be the latest IRL or Champ Car star who fails in his crossover to stock car racing?
Tracy Could Be NASCAR's Newest Open Wheel Star
-by Ren Jonsin
Of course Paul Tracy can be immediately successful in NASCAR's highest level.
Although this is only a one ride experiment right now, there is no reason Tracy can't be successful in a full-time Nextel Cup ride. He's been successful in every type of racing he's attempted. At 16, he became the youngest ever Canadian Formula Ford Champion in 1985, and became the 1990 Indy Lights Champion five years later, winning a record nine events. The following year, he competed in his first Champ car event at Long Beach, California, and at mid-season became a test driver for Team Penske. Now CART's winningest active driver and 2003 champ sits in 2nd place in the current standings with two wins this season.
And it's not like the crossover hasn't been done before. Recent successful open wheel converts include Nextel Cup's 2002 Champion Tony Stewart, 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kasey Kahne, Defending Nextel Cup Champ Kurt Busch, and four time champion Jeff Gordon. When a quality open wheel driver is put into a quality seat, the odds are that team will quickly be running up front, and eventually winning races and championships.
One of the main reasons these drivers do so well in stock cars is because of the car control that is learned in an open wheel car, whether it's on a dirt track or a road course. Every time the Nextel Cup cars turn right in New York or California, the open wheel guys are the ones that come to the front of the field. Drivers whose experience is limited to strictly asphalt oval stock car racing become mired in the back, while the open wheel and Sports Car guys battle up front.
At age 36, the odds are getting smaller that Tracy would come to NASCAR full-time, but if he wanted to, he could step into a winning team and keep it at the top with a very short transition time.
Tracy is Destined To Struggle in Nextel Cup
-by Jeff Meyer
Paul Tracy may be the winningest active driver in Champ Cars, but if he or anyone else thinks he's going to be a big hit right out of the gate in NASCAR, you're not hitting on all 8 cylinders.
Tracy, without question, is an extremely talented driver... OF CHAMP CARS! The difference between the cars and style of racing is just too great to go from one to the other without experience.
In open wheel racing, touching another competitor's car usually spells disaster quite suddenly. In that respect, Cup cars are a bit more forgiving, as evidenced by the time honored saying; "Rubbin' is racin!"
However, to throw an open wheel guy in a Cup car and suddenly tell him that it is ok to do a bit of banging if necessary just isn't going to work. Any driver after years of being at the top of open wheel racing, whoever he/she may be, is going to be a bit jittery in Cup car traffic.
Let's say for a minute that Tracy has vowed to remember that he has fenders over the wheels and a bumper on each end. What is he going to do? Be aggressive? I think not. Jumping into a Cup car and wrecking the regulars isn't going to make for many after race dinner invitations.
I do think that Paul Tracy will qualify for the event, (he must time in) as Michigan is a large track and he will be the only car on it at the time. Racing to a 20th or better finish with 42 other guys who know how to use the sheetmetal if need be will be a tall order.
Paul very well may turn out to be a great Cup competitor, but it will come with time. If you think Tracy will be nervous and jittery in a Cup car at Michigan, the poor guy will need a couple of Valiums before racing at Bristol!
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