The ball – or in this case, the steering wheel – is in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s court now.
If Junior truly wants to swap rides in an exhibition with fellow National Guard-sponsored Graham Rahal and his IndyCar open-wheeler, he’ll have to ask first.
That’s what Jim Campbell, Chevrolet VP/Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, told The Associated Press.
Campbell said the manufacturer would keep an open mind if Earnhardt officially stepped forward to swap rides with Rahal.
“If we get a proposal, we’ll take a look at it and we’ll look at it with an open set of eyes. The rest is hypothetical,” Campbell told AP. “Broadly speaking about any Chevy driver that is currently on our roster, if they decided to go race in another category or series, of course we’d love to see them in Chevys. There’s no doubt about that.
“In some cases it works out like that, and in some cases it doesn’t.”
Earnhardt said last week that he didn’t think the swap would happen because he drives for Chevy while Rahal drives a Honda-powered IndyCar, which is Chevy’s chief rival in the open-wheel series.
“I think the fact (Rahal) has a relationship with a different manufacturer is going to make it challenging – if not impossible – for me to drive that particular car,” Earnhardt said.
Thus far, there has been no official response from Honda officials whether the manufacturer would allow such a swap. But Rahal, who originally proposed the idea with a tweet to Earnhardt at last week’s Sprint Cup race at Fontana, Calif., remains hopeful that the exhibition trade can occur.
The two drivers would likely drive each other’s cars for a few laps at a site to be determined.
Fan interest, especially on Twitter, has been highly in favor of the proposed deal. National Guard officials said the idea has their support, as well.
Earnhardt may have been a bit premature in pooh-poohing the idea. Fellow Chevrolet-powered Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch will drive a Honda in this year’s Indianapolis 500, and then fly to Charlotte to race his Chevy later that evening in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600.
Busch had originally tested an Indy car with Andretti Autosport last year, when the team was powered by Chevrolet. However, it is powered by Honda this season.
Still, while Chevy officials originally encouraged Busch to drive for Chevrolet-powered IndyCar teams such as those owned by Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske, he ultimately chose to stay with the Andretti camp, and Chevy acquiesced the one-off Indy 500 run with Busch in a Honda.
“We had a great two-year run with Andretti Autosport and when he did his original test, Andretti was with Chevy,” Campbell said. “The conversation started when it was a Chevy team, and it just kept going. We’d certainly have liked to see Kurt in a Chevy for the 500, it just didn’t work out.”
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