Stop me if you've heard this one before: A major player in the IndyCar ranks is considering a jump to NASCAR's top level...Oh, you thought that sad experiment ceased for the most part in 2008 when Dario Franchitti, Patrick Carpentier, Jacques Villeneuve, et al. tried and failed at it?
If you put any stock into the latest story from the rumor mill, it looks like it's about to happen again—except this time with an owner.
Multiple sources have told Fox Sports' Lee Spencer that Michael Andretti of Andretti Autosport is now a candidate to field Dodge's flagship Sprint Cup team in 2013.
This isn't the first time that we in the NASCAR sphere have heard this rumor, and it may very well be far from the last. But more than ever, this rumor is one of the most nonsensical to come out of Dodge's search for a new leader next season.
It's got nothing to do with Andretti's engine situation in IndyCar, though. Andretti runs one of the top Chevrolet teams, behind only Penske Racing in prestige for the American marque. But keep in mind that Roger Penske has relationships with just about every car brand under the sun. In fact, he'll be running Fords in NASCAR to go with Chevrolets in IndyCar in 2013. Chip Ganassi runs Chevrolets in NASCAR and Honda in IndyCar.
Brand conflicts can be dealt with.
But the risk of further dilution of the already massive Andretti brand, especially in a discipline completely foreign to this team, should be reason enough to laugh at this rumor. Besides their three entries in the IZOD IndyCar Series (expanded to five for the upcoming Indianapolis 500), Andretti Autosport runs two-car teams at all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy.
That's nine full-time teams running out of the Andretti shop already.
Don't forget the company's expansion into race promotion this season. After splitting from Kim Green and Kevin Savoree before the 2010 season, Andretti took over the former Andretti Green Racing's race teams, while Green and Savoree maintained its race promotion business. But Andretti is back in the game as a promoter, having added the Milwaukee event to the schedule early this year and taking over the Baltimore race in September.
For the record, nine teams and two races give Andretti a larger motorsports involvement than both Penske and Ganassi.
But even if the Andretti organization were to find the cash somewhere to complete its rumored NASCAR expansion, finding a competitive driver to take over the car would be a serious chore. Most top drivers are locked up, while potential free agents like Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman are unlikely to go anywhere.
That leaves a seriously decimated crop of drivers. Is dealing with the hot-headed Kurt Busch worth it for what would be a fledgling operation? Would a completely new environment help Joey Logano or Jamie McMurray climb into the top 20 or help send them to a permanent home in lower series? And wouldn't it have made far more sense to jump into NASCAR while Danica Patrick was still an Andretti driver?
When judging NASCAR rumors, there are generally two options: entertain them seriously or be seriously entertained by them. The umpteenth Andretti-to-NASCAR rumor is likely an example of the latter.
Then again, if it's that easy to dismiss this rumor as ridiculous, there are probably going to be two Andretti-backed Dodges on the grid for next year's Daytona 500. Just remember, we all thought that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would never leave his father's team.