NASCAR: Earnhardt intrigued by Indy
INDIANAPOLIS ó Dale Earnhardt Jr. would jump at the chance to drive in the Indianapolis 500 if there were not a conflicting NASCAR race on the same day.
Rain washed out his plans for a ride in a two-seat Indy car on Thursday. Instead, he strapped himself behind the wheel and received a 10-minute, stationary lesson in Indy driving from former 500 winner Dan Wheldon.”Any time you’re around a race car and there’s a driver that has driven that car, you’re going to ask what it drives like, what it feels like, what it does, how it works,” Earnhardt said. “I picked his brains as hard as I could.”
He said driving at Indianapolis “definitely interests me.”
“I’d love to drive one (Indy car), to go to the track and put some laps in,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt said he would not try to race both at Indianapolis and in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on the same day.
John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart have done the Memorial Day weekend double, racing at Indianapolis in the morning and flying immediately afterward to North Carolina, but that option was effectively removed several years ago when the Indy 500 delayed its start time two hours for better TV coverage.
“Should the schedules work out one day, I think you’ll find a lot of (NASCAR) guys interested in coming here and running the Indy 500,” said Earnhardt, who was at the track to promote the July 26 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
Earnhardt’s best finish at the Brickyard ó a race his late father won in 1995 ó was sixth in 2006. Now he’s gone 39 straight races without a victory and stands 21st in Sprint Cup points this season, still adjusting to a change in crew chiefs seven weeks ago.
“I would no way categorize my attitude as satisfied, but it seems like that we’re going in the right direction and we’re making gains,” Earnhardt said.
New crew chief Lance McGrew was brought in by car owner Rick Hendrick following a 40th-place finish at Charlotte, ending Earnhardt’s longtime working relationship with his cousin, Tony Eury Jr. Earnhardt didn’t mention Eury specifically and declined to lay blame for his performance this season.
Earnhardt also made his first tour of the track’s Hall of Fame Museum said he was inspired by the open-wheel history of the Speedway.
“I remember when they first brought stock cars here to practice, it was a realization for a lot of people, including myself, that I may have a chance to race at Indianapolis that otherwise I didn’t think I would have,” he said. “To win at this race track, regardless of the series, is great for any driver’s resume.”
Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion, called Earnhardt a great competitor.
“Obviously, he’s very busy, but you never know,” Wheldon said of the possibility of Earnhardt someday driving at Indianapolis. “We all understand the significance of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and we all love it.”
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