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Are the days of the Indy/Charlotte double over? Maybe, maybe not. And as in Indy/Charlotte double, of course I’m referring to drivers competing in both the Indianapolis 500 IZOD IndyCar event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day.
In years past, Tony Stewart was the main driver seeming to make a habit of the double. Eventually, with race time changes, it became pretty much impossible to race the 500 miles in Indianapolis and then hop a jet to Charlotte to race another 600 miles. But more recently, the Memorial Day weekend racing schedule has been tweaked to make the double, at least from a scheduling standpoint, possible again — weather permitting. Then, add to that a huge monetary bonus that was announced last year for winning both races and the idea of racing for both trophies became more enticing. Or did it?
Nobody took that potentially lucrative challenge last year, and at least a couple of drivers who would seem to be candidates for the double in 2013 aren’t biting — at least not this year. The two most obvious candidates both come out of the Stewart-Haas stable — team owner/driver Stewart and driver Danica Patrick. But both drivers have already said that they won’t run the Indy 500 in 2013.
Both of the aforementioned drivers have mentioned recently that their focus should and does lie with their NASCAR efforts. On top of that, Stewart mentioned an improvement in IndyCar competition that would add additional toughness to such an effort.
But does this change of heart regarding the Indy/Charlotte double signal the door closing for good on the 1100-mile, open-wheel/stock car, pieced together endurance event? For now, I guess so, but the door doesn’t seem to be permanently locked. It may come back into vogue. Why do I say that? Because, Stewart says he has an open invitation from Roger Penske.
Penske offered a deal to Stewart to field an entry for him in the 2013 Indianpolis 500 — a deal that Stewart declined. But Stewart didn’t simply say no. Instead, he negotiated more of an open-ended deal that may provide him with an Indy 500 deal down the raod. Apparently, Stewart, himself, thinks another Indy/Charlotte double could potentially be in his future.
Never say never.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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