The greatest weekend of racing has passed, and boy, were fans treated to an awesome trifecta of events.
Fans started off the day by seeing Sebastian Vettel win the Monaco Grand Prix, his third win of 2017 and 45th overall in Formula 1; he’s now won 50 percent of the races contested this season, only a year removed from just his third winless season in a decade-plus long career.
On the other side of the world, another 33 drivers strapped into their open-wheel cars for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. A wreck-filled race ensued, with F1 star Fernando Alonso mixing it up among IndyCar’s best for most of the race before losing an engine with 21 laps to go. When all was said and done, Takuma Sato overcame the heartbreak of years past and became the first Japanese driver to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
And then, as the sun began to set across America, 40 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers took to the 1.5-mile oval in Concord, North Carolina, to contest the Coca-Cola 600. And despite another dominating performance in NASCAR’s longest race, Martin Truex Jr. went home a bridesmaid for the second time in the past three years after a fuel gamble by Austin Dillon. The Richard Childress Racing driver had just enough in the tank to get the famed No. 3 back in Victory Lane for the first time since Dale Earnhardt brought it home first at Talladega Superspeedway back in 2000.
All three races were historical for reasons more important than just being another running. And with this momentum, motor racing as a whole should begin preparations for the future.
Because one way to increase eyeballs on the sport as a whole is to work hand-in-hand to cross-promote the races.
IndyCar and NASCAR have done this in the past, with drivers opting to run both the Indy 500 and the Coke 600 on the same day — most recently Kurt Busch in 2014. And just like Alonso’s run in this year’s running of the 500, the crossover appeal of having a NASCAR driver in the field at Indianapolis brought a whole new set of viewers to the scene.
For 2018, it would serve both series well if they can have not just one, but two or more drivers do the double. Busch is an obvious choice due to his past Indy experience. But why stop there? Kyle Larson has expressed interest in running Indy in the past, and with his claim that he’s the “last true racer” in NASCAR, it would make complete sense for him to make a start in one of Chip Ganassi’s famed Honda entries. Danica Patrick has Indy experience, and, like Busch, races for Stewart-Haas Racing, a team that not only allows drivers to race in outside disciplines but also has the money to back such teams if need be.
But the real crossover appeal could come from getting some IndyCar drivers to complete the double, too. Juan Pablo Montoya has already spent years in Cup racing; he’d have to shake off some dust, of course, but his track record at ovals is heads above other open-wheel converts. With the strength of Team Penske, a third car could immediately be competitive for the Colombian should he want another chance at NASCAR glory.
But Montoya is unlikely to be the only one who might want a chance at racing a stock car. Just this week Graham Rahal tweeted that he’d be interested in a JR Motorsports ride.
— Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal) May 29, 2017
The logistics would definitely need to be worked out, but if established IndyCar teams could run a NASCAR driver then a NASCAR team could certainly put together a one-off ride to give an open-wheel racer a chance. And while JRM isn’t a Cup team, perhaps NASCAR could take another look at the four-car rule for the Charlotte races in May and allow a fifth for a driver attempting the double. Could you imagine what a driver could do in a fifth Hendrick Motorsports entry?
Is this a far-fetched idea? Not terribly. A lot of cooperation would be needed between IndyCar and NASCAR, but if any series can do it, these two can. After all, IndyCar has a history of promoting non-series regulars in its races, and NASCAR has been making big swings this season with the new relationship with Monster Energy. Get the IndyCar drivers up to speed by allowing them an entry in the Monster Energy Open and build up the hype early. Give fans a preview of things to come the following week.
And then sit back, relax and watch America’s best racers go head-to-head twice in a day.