Dale Jr., Newgarden see bright future for IndyCar-NASCAR crossovers

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The first time that the country’s top two racing circuits will share a track on the same race weekend will be absent any car swaps or even much driver interaction at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The reigning IndyCar champion, though, has another track picked out for his NASCAR debut.

“Man you tell me I can run a stock car under the lights at Bristol (Motor Speedway), I’m there,” Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden said on NBC Sports’ latest Countdown to Crossover conversation (video above). “Let’s go. You don’t have to give me practice. I’d take that opportunity any day.

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“I want to drive a stock car so bad. I’d love the challenge of it. I’d love to understand what those guys experience. Doesn’t matter where, but if I had a choice, Bristol would be my spot.”

With the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR Cup Series racing on consecutive days this weekend at IMS (the former on the road course; the latter on the oval, with both races on NBC), the buzz that began last year has been rekindled about more crossover events in the future — especially because this weekend won’t seem a full and proper inaugural.

Given team member restrictions and social distancing because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, IndyCar and NASCAR drivers essentially will be precluded from being on site together (and their fan bases also won’t intermingle because the track’s grandstands are closed).

But there is momentum building for the Indy doubleheader weekend becoming an annual event and perhaps allowing for stars running in multiple series (2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power said Wednesday he wants to run IndyCar, Xfinity and Cup in the same weekend).

It’s possible that crossovers also could become a happening at other tracks. NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he has gotten calls from Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti about running an Xfinity road course race with his JR Motorsports team, and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will test a Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing next week at IMS with an eye on racing IndyCar road courses next year.

Two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden made laps Sept. 27 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Some of the credit for the push should go to Newgarden, who has been long outspoken about his love of NASCAR and ran his Dallara-Chevrolet on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval during the NASCAR race weekend last September (a week after he won the 2019 championship).

Newgarden said it “created a lot of positive impact of the potential we could have these two great championships competing together one day. And now with Roger acquiring the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and everyone collaborating in this unique time of the world, it’s created a perfect opportunity for bringing us together.”

“It was a treat just to see Josef out there,” Earnhardt said in the Countdown to Crossover feature. “It got everyone’s mind running in the right directions. There’s been this conversation about bringing the two championships together at the same venue.

“These are unique times that created this opportunity. I felt like we want to go and be fans of their sport. We know they’re fans of ours. I know those guys would love to get an opportunity to drive stock cars. Jimmie’s testing an IndyCar and he’s talked and had conversations about running in that series potentially in the future. So this is opening up a lot of possibilities and opportunity not only for the two series to join together at the racetrack but also the drivers to move around try new things.”

Josef Newgarden speaks to the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway before making laps on the track’s road course last September (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images).

Newgarden would like to see more moonlighting in the future because “a lot of these guys are capable of this. This used to be a lot more normal 50 to 60 years ago to see this crossover action. I think Dale could probably get into one of these things and rip around a speedway just fine. He proved he could do that in iRacing. I think he would transfer pretty good in reality. You really have a lot of great crossover.

“I text guys like Jimmie and Kyle Busch. They love what we have going on, they’re really interested in it. All the IndyCar guys, we are glued to the NASCAR stuff, too, we love watching them, it’s an amazing sport and everyone does such great job over there. We’re always eyes wide open trying to learn from each other.”

Earnhardt said he would test with an IndyCar team if provided the chance.

“You definitely want to take that opportunity to try the car out and see what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s going to be something completely unfamiliar and fun but just having that knowledge of what those cars feel like, how they respond would give you another perspective, especially if we ended up back on the pit box at Indy sometime for the 500 with (Mike) Tirico.

“I’ll have more information and understanding of what those drivers are dealing with. There’s a lot of buttons and switches and tools for IndyCar drivers to have fun with and adjust and that in itself would be an education.”

For the full Countdown to Crossover discussion with Earnhardt, Newgarden and Leigh Diffey, watch the video above or click here.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
Laurent Charniaux/Pool via Getty Images
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.