During his speech at Friday night's Sprint Cup Series banquet Roger Penske offered Tony Stewart a ride in a Penske IndyCar for the Indianapolis 500.
It was a joke.
Wrong, apparently. When asked after the banquet about his line, Penske didn't exactly back away or laugh it off.
''If he wants to do the double, I'd put him in it,'' Penske said. ''We've talked about it before, I guess I made it official tonight.''
Well holy crap.
Stewart moved over from the IndyCar Series to NASCAR full time in 1999 and last ran the Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 Memorial Day weekend double in 2001. That year, he finished 6th in the 500 for Chip Ganassi and then third in the 600 for Joe Gibbs Racing, his only Sprint Cup Series team until he got an ownership stake in Stewart-Haas Racing and started driving for his team in 2009.
He has sworn off the double (NASCAR chatters, insert your Whopper jokes here) since then. But will Penske's public proclamation sway him? He's won 15 Indianapolis 500s, you know.
If a driver was going to do the Indy/Charlotte double in the near future, the favorite to do so looked like it would be Danica Patrick, who was entertaining the thought as recently as this summer. But with her move to the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2013, wiser heads prevailed and those plans have been scuttled, for now at least.
However, should her NASCAR owner do it? Stewart has never won the crown jewel of IndyCar racing — his best finish is a 5th with 64 laps led in 1997. He's also never won the Daytona 500, going 0-14.
So how about this proposal: if Stewart wins the 2013 Daytona 500, he takes Penske's offer. Only Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt (who Stewart chose his car number at SHR after) have won both races. Stewart would have the opportunity to be the first driver to win both in the same season, and if he prevents his 0-fer streak from getting one closer to Dale Earnhardt's in Daytona, why shouldn't he go for it in Indianapolis?
Of course, there are many logistics to sort out if Stewart was to take Penske up on his offer; namely sponsor conflicts (Mobil 1 vs. Shell Pennzoil) and the time juggling that would be required to maintain a regular Sprint Cup Series focus while getting in as much seat time as possible in Indianapolis.
After all, Indianapolis is the race that Stewart grew up attending and dreaming about. And it's a track that, like Daytona, has teased him with strong performances. With Daytona knocked off the bucket list, only Indy would remain unchecked. It'd be too tantalizing to pass up.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Tony Stewart
- Roger Penske
- Sprint Cup Series