Crocker to snub IRL for NASCAR

This Progress-Index article says, Despite her open wheel background – do you want to know what hurts, IRL fans? Despite her overwhelming passion for the people in the open-wheel industry, the show still isn't good enough to keep her (Erin Crocker) in their corner. If the word NASCAR is preparing to roll off the tip of your tongue, your guess is right on the money. Following in the footsteps of Newman, Kahne and Stewart, Crocker is falling in love with the idea of leaving USAC and the IRL for a trip down North Carolina's Tobacco Row. She desperately wants to trade paint with Sterling Marlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett and the rest of the south's good, old boys.

There is one small problem with that idea. There are only a few good rides available in NASCAR. "Our plans for next year are still up in the air," said Crocker, who ran the 22nd-fastest lap in the first practice at RIR on Friday. "The biggest thing right now is the funding. We're trying to put together a full Busch [Series] deal for next year. But if that doesn't come through, our worst-case scenario is we split the [Busch] car with Kasey Kahne. If that happens, there will be time to run some Silver Crown, Midget and Sprint Car. I want to be in a car as much as I can."

In anticipation of her NASCAR Busch Series debut at Richmond this September, Crocker, who has joined Evernham Motorsports to sharpen her skills, has competed in a handful of ARCA races this season to learn the ins and outs of a stock car. Her finishes have been mixed, including a 12th-place effort at Nashville Superspeedway.

"Each time, it goes a little better, pit stops go better and we get more and more comfortable with it," Crocker said. "I'm really excited about it."

With Patrick sitting on top of the motor sports kingdom at the moment, losing Crocker probably doesn't seem like too big of a deal for league founder and Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George. But here's what irritates me.

Imagine what the IRL could've done in the Nielsen TV ratings if Patrick, Kahne, Newman, Stewart and Crocker had been racing for the win in the 500 this year. We're talking about numbers that probably would've blown "Survivor," "The Apprentice" and "American Idol" off the map. Instead, we've been dealt another episode of "Fear Factor," worrying night and day what the future of the IRL might hold without Crocker. [Editor's Note: The IRL was supposed to save open wheel racing with all their "Road to Indy" hats to keep the open wheel short track racers in the fold. We hear more than one open wheel youngster has trashed their Road to Indy hat.]

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