Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal certainly knows that a ride swap with fellow National Guard-backed driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. could potentially go down as a big event.
But as the driver of the No. 15 Honda-powered Dallara said this morning in an INDYCAR teleconference, he posed the idea to NASCAR’s most popular driver as simply a matter of having fun.
“I threw that out there as something I really wanted to do,” Rahal said. “I was surprised he responded…Media-wise, for sponsor exposure, it could be tremendous for them. But I also thought it’d be something fun to do.
“I know there’s been a lot of guys that have always expressed interest in jumping in an IndyCar. Obviously, Kurt Busch is going to do that here in the Month of May, but I know Jimmie Johnson and others [have shown interest] so I thought, ‘You know what, we have a tie here now, so let’s see.'”
Rahal and Earnhardt tweeted mutual interest in the idea on Sunday evening following the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, which Rahal attended in person. Since then, the idea has taken off among fans, tracks, and media alike.
In a media event today at Charlotte Motor Speedway that featured Earnhardt driving Elvis Presley’s 1973 Stutz Blackhawk III (the last car that the rock ‘n roll legend ever drove in public) into the track’s media center, his car owner, Rick Hendrick, seemed open to the idea – to a point:
However, Earnhardt himself raised the biggest possible hurdle: The fact that he, a Chevy driver and spokesman, would have to drive Rahal’s Honda.
That said, Kurt Busch is also a Chevy driver in the Sprint Cup Series, and yet he’ll be driving an Andretti Autosport Honda at Indianapolis as part of an attempt at “The Double” – running both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in the same day.
Additionally, Hendrick brought up that the 2003 ride swap between his driver Gordon and then-F1 driver Montoya saw them use different manufacturers.
Granted, Hendrick appears to have misspoken, as Montoya’s F1 ride was a BMW-powered Williams. Still, the point stands – while manufacturers certainly have pride in their own drivers, they can see the big picture with events like this.