Star Drivers from Other Motorsports We'd Love to See in the NASCAR Sprint Cup
While it may seem simple enough, a driver making a transition from one motorsports series to another is oftentimes very difficult.
And that difficulty is most apparent when drivers from other motorsports series attempt to switch to the NASCAR world.
Frankly, those who have switched from another series to NASCAR and achieved success are few and far between. Tony Stewart is arguably at the top of the list, making the transition from open-wheel racing to become a three-time Sprint Cup champion.
Jeff Gordon is another one who comes to mind, switching to NASCAR after a stellar career in dirt and sprint car racing.
But others have tried and had less than great success.
Juan Pablo Montoya lasted seven seasons in Sprint Cup but was never quite the driver that he was in open-wheel racing, which he returned to in 2014 in the IndyCar Series.
Marcos Ambrose stayed nine years in NASCAR before returning back home to Australia to race V8 Supercars in the upcoming 2015 season. Ambrose was both quite popular and had decent success in NASCAR, even if he failed to win on an oval in the Sprint Cup Series, arguably one of his greatest regrets of never being able to accomplish.
Former IndyCar champ Dario Franchitti lasted a short while in NASCAR. Ditto for former CART and Formula One champ Jacques Villeneuve. Likewise for Travis Pastrana.
Even IndyCar-turned-NASCAR driver Danica Patrick has had a rough go of it in her own transition from open-wheel to the stock car ranks.
But all things being equal, if there were certain drivers we’d love to see give it a shot at NASCAR, here are the ones we think could have some success.
The king of rally racing and gymkhana driving, Ken Block is a superstar in his own right. He does things with a car that don’t seem humanly possible.
And whenever you think you’ve seen Block do it all, he surprises you with something more radical and crazy behind the wheel.
Block typically drives small, lightweight cars to perform his usual tricks and stunts. How he’d handle a 3,600-pound stock car, which typically isn’t known for its nimbleness and responsiveness, is a big question mark.
But we can guarantee you one thing for sure: If Block were ever to come to NASCAR and would win a race, he’d probably come up with the greatest victory celebration burnout in the sport’s history.
Defending IndyCar champ Will Power is huge. Great driver, great talent, great team.
And, of course, great name.
But Power is also very, very smart. Given how many open-wheel drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti had little overall success in NASCAR, Power might have to think twice if he were ever offered a ride in NASCAR.
Smart chap, indeed.
Then again, the challenge that NASCAR presents might be so alluring that Power still might want to give up being a big fish in a small pond to, at least at the outset, become a small fish in the NASCAR pond.
Still, it would be great to see Power develop from a small fish into a big and successful shark in NASCAR, just like he is in IndyCar.
Ryan Hunter-Reay has seemingly never met a challenge that he didn't like—or take on
Moving to race in NASCAR would certainly be one of the biggest challenges of Hunter-Reay's racing career. And he actually might have some success. The problem is RHR’s age (34) would work against him if he were to try and carve out a second career in the stock car world.
But from a marketing and promotional standpoint, Hunter-Reay would be a big catch for NASCAR. He’s an American driver (a native of Dallas), looks good, is a great spokesman (both in commercials and in media interviews) and is a darn good driver as well.
If there were anyone who could potentially make the jump from present-day IndyCar to NASCAR, Hunter-Reay would be the first guy whose name immediately comes to mind.
A third-generation open-wheel driver, Marco Andretti has certainly done well following in the footsteps of father Michael and grandfather Mario in IndyCar.
Young racing fans may not know it, but Mario had a very brief 14-race career in NASCAR in his late 20s. But he made the best of his opportunities by winning NASCAR’s biggest race, the Daytona 500, in 1967.
Marco will be 28 on March 13. (Has time ever flown—we remember when he was just a little tyke.) Much like Ryan Hunter-Reay, if Marco were to ever entertain the possibility of moving to NASCAR, he’s right in the perfect wheelhouse age-wise to do so.
And as an American-born driver and grandson of one of the greatest drivers of all time, just the name Andretti would quickly rise in popularity in the NASCAR world.
Lewis Hamilton would do a great deal for diversity if he came to NASCAR, both because of his racial and ethnic heritage as well as the fact that he’s from Great Britain.
Hamilton made winning in Formula One in 2014 look almost easy as he streaked to the championship. Given his gritty demeanor and fiery competitiveness, he’d fit into the NASCAR world quite nicely.
What’s more, Hamilton is just the kind of driver who we envision as welcoming the opportunity to bang fenders with other drivers—something he obviously can’t do (at least not intentionally) in F1.
Hamilton is already friends with NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart. To see the two of them go side by side toward a checkered flag at places like Daytona, Bristol or Darlington—well, you just couldn’t put a price on that kind of a potential show.
Nico Rosberg finished second to teammate Lewis Hamilton in the 2014 Formula One season.
Rosberg was a bit chippy at the end of the season, miffed that he came so close, only to still wind up losing to Hamilton for the championship.
If Rosberg were to come to NASCAR, he’d be part Tony Stewart, part Brad Keselowski, part Joey Logano and a dash of Kevin Harvick. In other words, he’d be a driver who would give as good as he got.
Courtney Force (as well as sister Brittany) is carrying on the drag racing legacy begun by her father, John Force, who is the winningest driver in National Hot Rod Association history.
Force’s ability on the straight and narrow of a drag strip has grown by leaps and bounds since she first started chasing the 1,000-foot world.
If Force were ever to come to NASCAR, we think she’d be an immediate sensation. She’s very marketable, attractive, well-spoken as a sponsor spokesman and in media interviews and comes from a racing background.
She’d also likely give Danica Patrick some good-natured competition as one female driver to another.
We’ve known Ron Capps for close to 20 years. While he’s a great drag racer, he’s also somewhat of a sleeper—in that he has also done well in limited stints in other racing series that actually have turns in them.
Example: He’s been one of the few drivers from NHRA who took part in several of Tony Stewart’s Prelude To A Dream races at Eldora Speedway, which pitted drivers from a variety of sports in dirt-track racing.
In almost every edition of the Prelude, Capps showed surprising success and versatility behind the wheel of a dirt late model car and on the dirt. If he could transfer that to a stock car on pavement, he might have a future in NASCAR—certainly a better likelihood than most.
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