Old Rumors Revisted: Motor Racing Gossip From Years Past
You've spent countless hours on your favorite Formula 1, NASCAR, or IndyCar website refreshing the page, waiting for the latest scoop to appear.
It seems that over the years, silly season just get sillier and sillier. Perhaps it only appears that way; the Internet has served as a virtual garage pass for even the most unconnected fans in the world. There may be more rumors out there today, but there certainly was no lack of crazy ones in the past.
For a look back on some gossip, speculation, and misinformation in car racing of years gone by, here is "Old Rumors Revisted."
(Note: I'm not entirely sure why, but this slideshow is not working particularly well. Although it suggests that the previous and next slides are exactly the same, they are not. Also, there are only 15 slides, not 16. Sorry about this)!
Senna to Jordan
It's 1993, and arguably the most gifted driver in the history of Formula 1, Ayrton Senna, is looking to leave McLaren. There was no doubt that Senna wanted to be competitive, but for just a little while, the Brazilian racer considered a move to a team towards the south end of the grid.
Eddie Jordan (pictured), owner of Jordan Grand Prix, offered Aryton co-ownership of his team, and would allow the driver to make money by selling sponsorship space on the car. While Senna ultimately declined, it was reported that he didn't write the scenario off immediately, and may have gone through with it.
CARTers in Formula 1
Despite Michael Andretti (pictured)'s ill-fated Formula 1 attempt with McLaren, many teams remained adamant about hiring talent from the US racing scene. In its heyday, CART showcased a variety of talented drivers, and few of the elite were immune to being linked to Grand Prix drives.
Al Unser, Jr. was courted by Williams, even testing their 1992 chassis, while Paul Tracy had a go in the Benetton a few years later. Just imagine PT playing number two to Michael Schumacher, who would have been his teammate had he gotten the drive.
The late Greg Moore's name made F1 headlines as well, as Norbert Haug of Mercedes was highly interested in the talented Canadian racer. It seemed to be certain that the CART star would move to the McLaren team in 2000 to replace David Coulthard, but a deal was never reached, and Moore opted to stay stateside with Team Penske.
CARTers in NASCAR
In addition to his alleged move to Formula 1, Greg Moore (pictured) was mentioned in the NASCAR rumor mill, as the Canadian suggested he'd try stock car racing before going to F1. While Moore never tested a NASCAR racecar, it was entirely possible the talented oval racer would have made a move to the sport later in his career.
Moore was not alone in being reported to joining what is now the USA's most popular form of motorsport, as Jimmy Vasser was reported to be going to SABCO Racing (now Earnhardt Ganassi) late in the 2000 season. Vasser eventually dabbled in stock cars, driving for Todd Braun in 2003 in what is now the Nationwide Series.
Gordon to Formula 1
In just seven seasons, Jeff Gordon (pictured) had already accomplished more in than most drivers do in their entire NASCAR careers. Gordon's success caught the attention of Formula 1 legend Jackie Stewart, who hoped to sign him for the 1999 season. Jeff never tested the car, though, and was not interested in an F1 move.
Gordon later did a demonstration in Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams in 2002 as part of a "ride swap," and was offered further testing from team owner Sir Frank Williams. Jeff declined.
Earnhardt to Le Mans
Dale Earnhardt (pictured) fully embodied the character of a stock car racer. Aggressive, intimidating, and fast, Earnhardt was a legend in NASCAR. Dale's interest expanding beyond US borders, though, and the 7-time Cup champion planned to retire to sports car racing, ideally after winning an eighth title.
Earnhardt had the opportunity to participate in one event in the Corvette GT racecar, the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2001, and would likely have been a part of the team's Le Mans squad in years to come.
Burton to Childress
Many predicted Jeff Burton (pictured) would win the 2001 NASCAR Cup championship after an impressive run the previous year. Unfortunately for Jeff, the second season of the new millennium did not go as planned. Due to his poor performance, rumors began to swirl that the Virginia native would leave his Roush Racing ride for one at Richard Childress' team.
Jeff didn't leave for RCR during the 2001 season, but did join the team late in the 2004 season.
Kia to CART
In 2001, one website played an April Fools' Day joke by suggesting that Kia Motors (pictured) would enter the CART championship in two years' time.
While this "rumor" was hardly a rumor, it is humorous how just a few years go, people scoffed at the idea of a Kia going motor racing. Now, the Korean manufacture looks likely to join the British Touring Car Championship, and perhaps make a move to the American motorsports scene in the near future.
Hornish to DEI
Sam Hornish, Jr. (pictured) was making his mark on the Indy Racing League in 2001, well on his way to the title in his first full season of competition. Hornish, then driving for Panther Racing, was backed by Pennzoil, who also sponsored Steve Park's NASCAR Winston (now Sprint) Cup Series Chevrolet. It was only natural that the Ohio native would be linked to a second yellow machine campaigned by Dale Earnhardt Incorporated for the 2002 season.
While Hornish didn't make the jump to stock cars that year, he did move to NASCAR in 2007 before going full-time in the sport in 2008.
Danica to NASCAR (The Original)
In 2002, Danica Patrick (pictured) was a rising star in what was then the Toyota Atlantic Championship, part of a driver development deal for Bobby Rahal's CART team. The female racer had ambitions to race in the CART series, or even Formula 1, but did not rule out a NASCAR move.
Patrick tested a Nationwide Series Ford for ppc Racing that year, setting impressive lap times in comparison to NASCAR regular Jason Keller. Danica thanked Ford for the opportunity, but elected to stay in the world of fender-less racing, eventually ending up in the IRL. Now, it appears highly likely that Patrick will be behind the wheel of a stock car in the near future. Stay tuned...
Formula 1 and CART to Merge
Perhaps the most bizarre rumor in recent memory surfaced in 2003 when it was reported that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone (pictured) was about to purchase the US-based CART series. While the alleged buyout may have been to create a new development series for Formula 1, many reports suggested Ecclestone intended to "combine" the two series, a move that would ultimately close down all CART teams and merely add a handful of North American venues to F1's calendar.
Ecclestone denied interest in CART, and the series declared bankruptcy later that year before being purchased by Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerry Forsythe, and Paul Gentilozzi.
Herta to Formula 1
Bryan Herta (pictured) was well-known in US racing circles, but had not made a mark in Europe. Having won the Team USA Scholarship early in the 1990s, Bryan was no stranger to the F1 feeder series, and had a strong relationship with Honda. Herta was linked to the B.A.R. team powered by the Japanese manufacture during the 2003 season, but never made the move to F1.
Herta continued with Honda in the Indy Racing League, and later in the American Le Mans Series under the Acura banner. He now owns an Indy Lights team and works as a driving coach with Vision Racing.
Montoya to Ferrari
There was no doubt that Juan Pablo Montoya (pictured) was a gifted driver when he made his Formula 1 debut. Unfortunately, he was hard to work with, and wanted a way out of his Williams contract. In 2004, rumors persisted that the Colombian driver would move to Scuderia Ferrari, the dominant team of the time.
JPM never signed with the Italian team, though, and aligned with their rivals, McLaren-Mercedes, for the 2005 season. Montoya did get to a race a red car later in his career, though, as he currently pilots the Target Chevrolet in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.
Labonte to Davis
Bobby Labonte (pictured) began his NASCAR career with Bill Davis Racing, and nearly returned in 2006. As his ten-year tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing was coming to a close, Labonte's name was all over the rumor pages, and the BDR rumor seemed to be the leading one. The reunions would not stop at the driver and team, according to the reports, as Shell Oil was reportedly interested in sponsoring the duo (Shell had sponsored Bobby Labonte's Nationwide car in the 90s, and appeared on his Cup vehicle).
Bobby elected to join Petty Enterprises, though, and Bill Davis Racing's doors closed at the end of 2008.
Schumacher to BMW
Michael Schumacher (pictured) announced his retirement at the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, but one team was intent on keeping the legendary driver in the sport for another year. BMW-Sauber allegedly offered the German driver $100,000,000 to drive for their team in 2007, though some reports suggested the driver could earn as much as $1,000,000,000 due to the merchandising opportunities created by BMW and himself sharing a nationality.
Michael declined the offer (if there was one), and chose to stay retired until a few months ago, when he announced he would return to Ferrari to replace the injured Felipe Massa. Schumi's debut never happened, though, due to a neck injury.