Penske’s Indy 500 offer drawing interest

Roger Penske is crafty, and he loves IndyCar, so he managed to turn the talk to his beloved Indianapolis 500 before the Sprint Cup Awards banquet Friday night was over by offering three-time NASCAR champion #14-Tony Stewart the chance to drive for him next May. Although Stewart has yet to publicly respond to Penske's offer, Indianapolis Motor Speedway started an online petition where fans can encourage the two-time Brickyard 400 winner to accept the ride.

Should Stewart pass, drivers were using Twitter on Monday to inform Penske they wanted the seat. Among them were Chip Ganassi Racing development driver Kyle Larson, Conor Daly, who spent this year in Formula One support series GP3, and NASCAR driver #55-Brian Vickers, who tried to put together an Indy 500 deal last May but was stymied by IndyCar's engine shortage.

"I'm serious about Indy. Would do it in a heartbeat, was not just tweeting to be funny," Vickers said Monday. And broadcast partner ABC seemed amenable to discussions with IMS about moving up the start time of the 500 to accommodate Stewart (or Vickers or Casey Mears or AJ Allmendinger or Danica Patrick or Sam Hornish Jr. – because there's a list of NASCAR drivers with open-wheel experience who could theoretically now be thinking about trying to run both the IndyCar race and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600).

"ABC/ESPN would enthusiastically support the opportunity for said driver(s) to participate in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. We have strong partnerships with the league and speedway," said Julie Sobieski, ESPN vice president, programming & acquisitions. IMS has not said if it's willing to move its start time, and the Indy 500 is a strong enough race that it doesn't need this additional buzz. Associated Press

[Editor's Note: Will NASCAR allow this to happen, i.e. give #1 enemy IndyCar free publicity, or has NASCAR itself fallen enough that it would now consider the proposition because it too will get publicity. As recently wrote, IndyCar should be acquired by NASCAR so the two series can work together to enhance racing in the USA instead of trying to kill each other. In reality this is just a Penske publicity stunt to get IndyCar some free PR because otherwise it fell off the face of the earth story-wise.]

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