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France: NASCAR not talking to IndyCar about double
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - NASCAR chairman Brian France said Saturday that the organization is not talking with IndyCar about making it easier for drivers who want to try racing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has shown a willingness to work with NASCAR. Last December, IMS President Jeff Belskus said he would consider moving up the start time so Tony Stewart could follow through on an offer to run the double for Roger Penske. Stewart, who in 2001 became the first driver to complete all 1,100 miles of racing on the same day, wound up turning down Penske’s offer.
Robby Gordon was the last racer to run both events in 2004. France said drivers’ increasing busy schedules have made such attempts less likely.
“In the past, there’s been others that have definitely done the dual,” France said. “I think what they generally find out is that it’s too difficult to manage the schedule.”
A racer has to have weather and logistics on their side to make it through Indianapolis and Charlotte. Stewart’s schedule worked as perfectly as it could in 2001 when he pulled off top 10 finishes in each race.
He was sixth in the Indy 500 and immediately left for North Carolina. Stewart arrived about 25 minutes before the start of the Coca-Cola 600, jumped in his car and prepared for more racing. He finished third at Charlotte.
Still, the questions crop up as more and more drivers with open-wheel backgrounds migrate to NASCAR.
One of Stewart’s Sprint Cup drivers, Danica Patrick, talked last year about trying both events, but says her focus is on NASCAR. “Each year my desire to race there is less and less and my apprehension grows higher and higher,” Patrick said.
“I thought this year was going to happen, but it’s just not going to be helpful for my Cup career,” said Patrick, who has run the Indy 500 seven times. “And at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.”
Other points France touched on were:
_ His desire to keep NASCAR’s current TV partners as it negotiates new agreements. “But that’s why you have negotiations and discussions,” he said. “We’ll have to see how that plays out.”
_ Recent comments from Speedway Motorsports Inc. head Bruton Smith about potentially moving the fall race from Charlotte to Las Vegas. France said SMI has not approached NASCAR and that his preference would be working on making events more successful at their current tracks.
_ How drivers backed France for the $25,000 fine NASCAR levied against driver Denny Hamlin in March after criticizing the Gen-6 car. “Let me tell you, I can’t tell you how many drivers came up to me after the Denny Hamlin comment and said, `You’ve got to do that or we won’t be able to help ourselves from time to time. I’m glad you did that,’” France said.
France has long said drivers and others can’t criticize the product on the track. “They all know the line. They all know exactly where it is because we talk about it,” he said. “I talk about it directly with every one of the drivers, every one of the owners. No disputing that.”
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