Johnson says no to Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 double
Although the proposal has drifted out of the public domain for several months, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has not stopped working on million-dollar bonuses to entice drivers to compete in both of the Memorial Day weekend races: the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600.
The concept would include a $20 million bonus to the driver who wins both events in the same day, and perhaps smaller bonuses for any driver winning one race and finishing in the top five of the other.
One of Bernard's dream drivers won't participate, this year or probably any year.
Jimmie Johnson, the five-time reigning NASCAR champion who has never driven an Indy car, said he would decline for family reasons.
"I really, really want to do it," Johnson said this week during NASCAR's preseason media tour in Charlotte, N.C. "I'm just not sure if it's going to work for me. (Chandra, his wife) and I talked about it and (said) if the opportunity came along before we had kids, it was something I needed to do."
Their first child, Genevieve Marie Johnson, was born in July.
Team owner Rick Hendrick said that is the deal-breaker for Johnson. "His wife's against it, and she's got a lot of stroke in that deal," he said.
Another factor for Johnson -- and other Sprint Cup drivers -- is the auto manufacturer conflicts. General Motors has been out of IndyCar since 2003; its return comes in 2012. Only Honda will participate in this year's 500.
Had there been a Chevrolet for Johnson to drive in recent years, the scenario might have played out differently.
"I just wish we could have got GM to activate a few years ago," Johnson said. "I would be sitting here today saying, 'Yeah, I'm going' (to Indy)."
Bernard is still hoping for a commitment from Kasey Kahne or Juan Pablo Montoya, but no one has suggested a deal will materialize for the 100th-anniversary 500 in May. Sam Hornish Jr. is without a Sprint Cup ride this season but has not expressed interest in returning to Indy cars. Indy Star