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NASCAR Sprint Cup and Indy-cars: Double-header race weekends?
NASCAR/Indy-car doubleheader weekend? Cup and Indy-cars?  Randy Bernard, the new CEO of the Indy Racing League: "I'd love that! That's a great question for NASCAR.

"If it makes sense for everybody, we'd love to do it.  We've talked with ISC about a couple different (track) locations about doing that...and they said they'd go talk to NASCAR.  We'd love to do it. It makes sense for us. Any place we can showcase our sport, we want to do it."

Mike Helton, the NASCAR CEO, says it's never been brought up to NASCAR by any promoters, but he didn't rule it out.

"It's never been presented. If a promoter asked us to look at it.....we'll see what happens down the road," Helton said.

"Our sanctioning agreements with the tracks call for us to be able to work out the rest of the weekend schedule (companion events).

"We're both part of motorsports, so the overall health of motorsports is important to both of us. But we're also still competitors, for sponsorships and dates and drivers and owners and all that.

"But Randy has a good spirit about how to figure out how to do things. And we'll see, going down the road....."

Actually, given the TV slump NASCAR seems to be in right now, any good promotion like this is ripe for consideration: The Michigan 400 two weeks ago pulled a weak 2.9, lowest in years for a regularly scheduled race, and then last Sunday's Sonoma 350 pulled only a 2.7, considerably off last year's 3.4, despite some of the hottest racing of the season.

Bernard and Helton both are working on 2011 schedules right now, for release probably by late summer. Bernard says he expects as many as 24 tracks or venues to request Indy-car dates, some of those of course international.

Most of the 22 NASCAR Cup tracks can also run Indy-cars, except perhaps Daytona, Talladega, Bristol, Dover, Darlington and Martinsville. Indy-cars and NASCAR Cup both run the Sonoma and Watkins Glen road courses this season.

And this season track promoters have been struggling to make things happen.

So the issue of what helps track promoters for both tours – virtually the same cast of characters – is key here.

California's Auto Club Speedway, for one example, and Michigan International Speedway, for another, and Chicagoland too, might all well have larger race weekend crowds with such a double-header package.

Plus, there would be the potential for driver crossovers. Tony Stewart might now be reluctant to resume Indy-car racing, but Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and of course Robby Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya could do both.

"We're pretty conscious of the fact that the promoters are a major stakeholder in all this," Helton says. "And we're also conscious of the fact that we (as NASCAR Sprint Cup) can't be everything to everybody...so if there's another form of racing that a facility (promoter) can make sense out of, then we're all for that.

"But the timing of all that is relative to us. I mean we're busy making our form of motorsports work right."

So is Bernard, new to this sport, and with perhaps some fresh ideas.

First thing, Bernard would like to have Indianapolis move the starting time of its 500 back to 11 a.m.

"In my opinion, that's a must," Bernard said.

"The ratings used to be fantastic when it was at 11 a.m. It's important to our sport....and that would allow NASCAR drivers to make both, if they wanted.

"I know for a fact there's a great interest level from some of the top drivers in NASCAR who would like to race the 500 (too) if they could. I met with several of them at Eldora (Tony Stewart's charity event), and they gave me commitments they'd race the 500 if they could."

Bernard wouldn't mention any of those drivers by name, but he did point out that Stewart "is more reluctant to do it. He didn't say no, but he said he'd need a lot of practice, because he didn't want to do it if he couldn't be competitive. We told him we'd give him all the practice time he wanted."

Drivers might be the easy part of any Indy-car/NASCAR dealings.

But how about team owners? Right now the Indy-car world is pretty much ruled by two men, car owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, who of course are also long-time NASCAR team owners too.

If NASCAR engines were good for Indy-car racing too, some other NASCAR team owners, like Jack Roush and Richard Childress, might be persuaded to put Indy-car teams out on the track too, or at least provide parts and engineering.

Engines? Bernard says the new IRL engine rules for 2012 may help open the door.

"Up to V-6 turbo, 550 to 700 hp, and open competition, so any auto manufacturer can get involved, and we understand a lot of European car makers might want to get involved," Bernard says.

He plans to talk with engine makers Ilmor and Cosworth in the next few weeks, beginning Monday.

Maybe Bernard should also talk with NASCAR engine men like Doug Yates, Danny Lawrence and Jeff Andrews. Why couldn't a stock block NASCAR 358 couldn't be detuned to 550-700 hp? And as much money as NASCAR team owners have invested in engine building equipment, it makes good sense to have another sales outlet.

But then Bernard, taking over the IRL in April after a 15-year stint as head of the Professional Bull Riders association, is really quite new to racing, after all, and to racing's high-powered personalities, like Bruton Smith...and perhaps how to play that delicate balancing act.  MikeMulhern.net
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