Dear Danica

Dear Danica:
I hope this letter finds you well, enjoying a weekend in Music City as the Indy Racing League gets ready for Saturday night's race at Nashville Superspeedway. Nothing says IndyCar racing like Nashville. Not sure exactly how many IndyCar fans are in the middle Tennessee area, but at least you know you'll be getting some decent barbeque while you're down there.

There's been some talk this week about your racing future and the possibility of leaving IndyCar racing for NASCAR. The celebrated move of Juan Pablo Montoya to NEXTEL Cup next year has started a string of rumors and gossip that you may be the next open wheel racer to try their hand at NASCAR.

What are you waiting for?

The longer you stay on the Titanic the better chance you have of winding up frozen in the ocean like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Let's face it, open wheel racing is going nowhere fast and all the merger talk in the world isn't going to salvage the mess that is now eleven years in the making. While Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven continue to fiddle like Nero as Rome burns to the ground, NASCAR is steamrolling across the racing landscape.

There's a place for open wheel racing in this country and who knows, maybe it can get back to where it once was before the uncival war broke out. But if things were fixed tomorrow, it'd take at least five years to put the sport remotely back on the map of American racefan consciousness.

Why waste your time when you can jump into the most popular form of the sport on the globe, despite what Mr. Ecclestone might tell us?

Sure it's a grind going from 14 or 16 races a season to the 38 event marathon of NASCAR. And learning to drive a 3,400 lb. stock car will also take an intense transitional period. But isn't it better to try this now, while you're young, than to hang on for too long on the open wheel side and watch your skills diminish?

There's a long list of drivers who have made the move from open wheels to NASCAR - Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon lead the list. I mean no offense, but I'm not sure you're in their category talent-wise, however I'd bet my "Talladega Nights" hat you'd be able to match the performance of Jason Leffler, Robby Gordon and J.J. Yeley, another group of former open wheel drivers who are making a pretty good living in NASCAR these days.

Although you initially dismissed the idea earlier this week when it was reported your dad T.J. was at Chicagoland Speedway feeling things out last weekend, you made some comments later that proved this is an interesting idea. Go with your gut Danica, you've done all you can for the IRL and IndyCar racing. "Danica-mania" helped spur higher television ratings last year and increased interest in the sport, but it was obviously an aberration.

This year, no matter what you do (and being saddled with a second-rate team and inferior equipment isn't helping), interest in open wheel racing - whether it's the IRL or Champ Car - is fading even more.

The only logical career move is to try your hand at NASCAR. Next season is the perfect time with a plethora of new teams sprouting up trying to find drivers in a very shallow talent pool. Surely with the built-in marketing opportunities you bring to the table, any team and sponsor would jump at the chance to add you to their line-up.

Will you win right away? Of course not, the Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlins of the world don't come along every year. But can you be successful and eventually be competitive? I believe so, just as I do Montoya will in time.

It's obviously your decision Danica, but there is no time like the present. Think about it, more people will see you on television during a rain delay in NASCAR than will three combined IRL race telecast audiences.

Have a great weekend in Nashville. And just for fun, count the number of NASCAR-related t-shirts in the crowd versus IndyCar shirts. I think you'll be surprised.

But probably not.

Best Regards,

Pete Pistone
Managing Editor

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