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DATE News (chronologically)
03/24/07
nascar
irl
NASCAR 'the place to be'  Sam Hornish Jr. grew up worshipping Indy-style racing, but three IndyCar championships and one Indianapolis 500 victory later, he is dabbling in NASCAR.

Dan Wheldon, who won the IndyCar title and Indy 500 in 2005, attended last month's Daytona 500, the next best thing to racing in NASCAR.

Since July, open wheel stars have defected to NASCAR for full-time Cup rides, most notably Juan Pablo Montoya, who left Formula One, and A.J. Allmendinger from Champ Car. Hornish has run in five Busch races and Wheldon had a Busch seat fitted and could compete in a race later this year.

Even NASCAR chairman Brian France said in his state of the sport address last month, ``This is the place to be when you want to test your skills against the best drivers in the world.''

MANY REASONS

But open wheel drivers' intrigue extends beyond that. The biggest reasons they are eyeing NASCAR include: the challenge of driving a different car, the opportunity to compete in the most popular motor sports series in the United States, the possibility of racing well into their 40s and the earning power.

''There's not one reason,'' Wheldon said. ``The more you talk about it, the more you come up with different reasons.''

For some, the allure of money is impossible to overlook. Helio Castroneves, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, recently expressed an openness to trying NASCAR if the opportunity arises, and admitted the financial potential is enticing.

''That's where the money is right now,'' said Castroneves, a Coral Gables resident. ``It's a big deal. When we say popularity that is what we're talking about -- the money involved.''  More at Miami Herald

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