March 31, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Do the double.
The Winston Cup owner has already shown what he’s made of a thousand times over. After all, being Dale Earnhardt’s boss, while it had plenty of upside, must also have been a pretty tough job. Childress’ most recent accomplishment, however, is putting together a deal that lets Robby Gordon compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
Forget the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Baja 1000 and all the Grand Prix and oval races in the world. There’s nothing as glorious as this double dip. Just to race in either of the events once in a career is glorious, and do both is legendary.
After all, we’re talking about the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the most famous race in history plus NASCAR’s longest event in the home of stock-car racing. Racing in both on the same day takes it to another level.
Drivers seem to understand the greatness of the double, but all they have to worry about is getting behind the wheel. Not so quick to embrace the double are team owners, who other things on their mind such as keeping a sponsor happy, costs, making sure they’ve got a healthy top-flight driver, etc.
Childress knows and understand racing history. He should, having been Earnhardt’s team owner. Childress got to experience another chapter last year, when he joined another legend who understands the double, A.J. Foyt, to co-own an Indy team for Gordon. The experience helped Gordon land a full-time Winston Cup ride with Childress for 2002.
More importantly, Childress has gotten Cingular to understand. Cingular is Gordon’s Winston Cup sponsor and will also be on the side of Gordon’s Indy ride, which Childress will co-own with IRL owner John Menard.
If anybody should be doing the double, it is big-time sponsors. They should be driving these historic doubleheaders, but for the most part have been on the sidelines.
John Andretti, the first to accomplish the double back in 1994, is out for this year. Andretti’s full-time ride is in the No. 43 Winston Cup car made famous by Richard Petty. Kyle Petty, currently in charge of the team, nixed Andretti’s hope for a trip to Indy.
Kyle’s not only pretty smart, but he’s a bit of a free spirit, so his decision was a bit of surprise to Andretti. Kyle, however, didn’t squash the idea forever. The Petty three-car team, which has been struggling for several seasons, seems to be on the verge of getting its act together.
"We're just not in a position to let John do this at this time,” Kyle Petty said last week. “I want John to do it, but we need his focus to be on the Winston Cup cars."
Kyle, consequently, is excused for his actions, but for this year only. Kyle, your punishment, however, is to start negotiating a 2003 double with your sponsors as soon as this season ends. Certainly you can come up with something good with General Mills, something that includes a contest and die-cast cars of both. Certainly Cheerios can help a guy make it through 1,100 miles.
The only other driver to double up is Tony Stewart, who has done it twice. Home Depot, his sponsor, seems a willing partner, but Joe Gibbs Racing doesn’t seem as interested this year as in the past. Of course, the Gibbs team isn’t exactly performing so far this Winston Cup season as its owner would like, so maybe Stewart is in pretty much the same situation as Andretti. Perhaps 2002 is just a bad year.
But that’s no excuse. There should be a long line of drivers and teams wanting to do the double. There’s plenty of Winston Cup drivers with enough open-wheel experience to handle Indy. Drivers like Ryan Newman, Jerry Nadeau and Jeff Gordon could handle the double. And perhaps some of the IRL guys that have raced IROC should take a look at getting a one-time NASCAR ride. Let’s get Al Unser Jr. and Eddie Cheever in the double. Surely NASCAR could use the addition cars during qualifying.
Greg Ray, currently without any ride, could handle the doubleheader if he hooked up with the right teams. Christian Fittipaldi, who doesn’t race on either the Winston Cup circuit or the Indy Racing League, might be the best candidate of all. He’s already talked his Newman-Haas CART team into letting him test the stock car waters, with several Busch starts planned in 2002.
C’mon guys. Let’s double, triple and quadruple the guys doing the double. It is truly the greatest spectacle in racing.