At first glance, this cringe-inducing photograph brings visual representation the Worst Case Scenario for IndyCar fans. The three-time series champion and defending Indy 500 winner shows off his shiny new NASCAR ride, leaving behind the series he practically owns for the sake of more exposure, more races and lots more dollars.
Aaaah! My eyes! MY EYES!!!!
However, Uncle Sam has commented early and often that this is nothing more than a diversion, a pastime in between IRL seasons that allows him to address his racing curiosity. While this in no way means he won’t someday end up bumping the behemoths full-time, it does mean that he’s staying in the IRL for at least one more season.
Besides, Roger Penske seems like a fairly loyal guy, and I doubt he would displace Ryan Newman or Kurt Busch just to give a ride to Hornish. I suppose The Captain could add a third car to his Cup stable, but that ain’t happening according to Don Miller who runs Penske’s NASCAR operations.
"Next year we are looking at some things, bringing in Sam Hornish (from the Indy-car world) to do a lot of Busch stuff. We're going to get a little deeper with our people. Maybe that's where some of these rumors are coming from - people asking to come over here and work for our third Cup team. But we're not going to have a third Cup team in 2007."Regardless, this picture represents the full total of IndyCar drivers that fans in Arizona get to see this year. The IRL race at PIR was wiped off the schedule in 2006 and will not return in 2007. That sucks. But an Indy 500 champion – two of them in fact – will be making an appearance this weekend in the Valley of the Sun, racing their way through a Busch series event.
So yes, I will be there watching, hoping what I see is a novelty instead of some glimpse into the future. The ironic thing for me is that two of my kids are finally old enough to take to the races, but the first racing action they get to see is NASCAR. Life can be cruel, but if it’s the worst thing that happens to us this year I’ll be fine.
If there is any justice to be gained in this scenario, it is this: My five-year-old son loves this show called The Backyardigans, and his favorite character is “Pablo”. The boy wants to see Tony Stewart race because he always sees signs with his big, smiling face at the Home Depot Kids Workshops, and I’m OK with that considering how impressive Stewart was in the IRL. But I’m also confident I can get him to cheer for 2000 Indy 500 champ Juan “Pablo” Montoya as well - on name alone. Sure, Montoya doesn’t look much like a singing blue penguin, but at least he’s an open-wheel guy who stands a chance of wreaking havoc in the NASCAR world.
There may not be any actual open-wheel cars racing here this weekend, but we shall be supporting the current and former open-wheel drivers nonetheless.