Can NASCAR Owners Deliver Cinderella Story with IndyCar Challenge?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2011

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24:  Team owner Chip Ganassi, speaks to the media during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Hilton University on January 24, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

NASCAR owners Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske have a chance to create a Cinderella scenario if they can pull off the challenge issued by the Izod IndyCar Series.

Randy Bernard, CEO of IndyCar, recently announced by teleconference a $5 million challenge to any professional race car driver who does not compete in the Izod IndyCar Series.

The IndyCar sanctioning body will return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Championship finale race of the series.

Any driver from another series, be it NASCAR, Formula 1, USAC or even Rally Car, who can win the final race will get $5 million.

The race will be held October 16th, following the Saturday night NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which is part of the Chase.

Only two owners in NASCAR have heavy connections in the open-wheel series of IndyCar, Penske and Ganassi.

Bernard said, "We want to see the best drivers in the world that think they can drive an Indy car that wanted to give it a shot."

Testing would be provided at the Las Vegas track.  A selection committee would deal with the integrity of the drivers.

Finding a car might not be much of a problem.  The Championship finale will be the last time the current IndyCar chassis will be used.  There should be adequate completed cars available.

The marketing potential to find strong sponsorship for this crossover racing promotion could be quite strong.

A top-flight driver capable of taking on this challenge quite possibly could come from the top series of NASCAR.

Tony Stewart is a star in the open-wheel world.  He currently is the owner/driver of the No. 14 Chevy for Stewart Haas Racing in NASCAR, but he has a 1995 USAC Triple Crown title and 1997 IRL Championship to his credit in addition to Cup championships in 2002 and 2005.

Juan Pablo Montoya came from Formula 1 and CART with success in both series.  He currently drives the No. 42 Target car for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Bernard is a believer that all motorsports series need to work together for the benefit of each series.  He has communicated with Mike Helton and Brian France.  He hopes to have more communication and to work with NASCAR.

This IndyCar challenge is a bit more realistic than the previous $20 million offered to any NASCAR driver who could win the Indy 500 and Coke 600 at Charlotte the same day.

The possibilities of this challenge are fascinating regardless of who accepts it and what series they are from.

Is it possible Penske and/or Ganassi can showcase a NASCAR driver in the IndyCar Series for $5 million?


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