The worlds of NASCAR and IndyCar collided Friday night in Charlotte. Well maybe âcollidedâ isnât the right word, but drivers from the stock world did get a peek into the open-wheel world thanks to a visit from newly crowned, now two-time, IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden.
As a present for winning the title, Newgardenâs boss, Roger Penske, arranged to have his driver take a few laps in an IndyCar racecar that recently saw action at that seriesâ finale at Laguna Seca, around Charlotte Motor Speedwayâs 17-turn, 2.28-mile road course.
âIâm excited,â Newgarden said. âThis is like a little bit of candy at the end of the week after a championship. Iâve had about an hour of prep this morning. Iâve never seen this track. I got a little bit of a taste on a desktop computer this morning just to try and figure out where the heck I was going and get my gears sorted out in my head.â
Obviously, the differences between the cars NASCAR and Indy race are vast.Â NASCAR racecars have fenders, and of course a roof.
âI have never been in anything that doesnât have a roof, outside of a go-cart,â said William Byron. âI think that it looks awesome. The biggest thing I think is probably the difference in airflow, obviously, and they donât really have power steering in those IndyCarâs at least; thatâs got to be tough.â
âI think they are obviously completely different animals,â Byronâs teammate Alex Bowman said. âThereâs not a whole lot of similarities between the two, other than four tires and a steering wheel.â
But would any NASCAR driver consider jumping over to the IndyCar series? Tony Stewart was successful as was Juan Pablo Montoya and even Kurt Busch ran an Indy 500, one of a few drivers, including Stewart, who ran the Charlotte-Indy double.
Like Stewart and Busch, Martin Truex Jr. is a NASCAR champion, but donât look for him to double up.
âItâs so far away from what Iâve done my whole career,â Truex Jr. said with a grin.Â âIâm not that young, stock cars have suited me well, so I donât plan on making the jump. Difference-wise, I mean theyâre completely different, right? IndyCar is an inch and a half off the ground. It probably was quite a bit less than what our cars do. It has similar horsepower, maybe more and way more downforce. Rear engine â itâs just completely different than a race car. Iâm assuming the way you drive it as well. Definitely worlds apart.â
Some younger drivers however may have an interest.
âIâd love to run IndyCar,â Bowman said. âI donât necessarily know that Iâd want to run an oval, but at a road course, it would be a ton of fun.â
âIâd love to race one at some point,â Byron said. âIt would be really cool. Iâm still young, so Iâll hopefully have an opportunity at some point.âÂ
And add Newgarden to the list of drivers interested in making a swap; for Newgarden however that swap would work in reverse.
âWhat I love is the NASCAR guys are interested in us and we are interested in them,â Newgarden said.Â âYou can tell we are all just racers. I love their cars, and I love theirs. The only thing that would have made me more excited is if I could have gotten into one of their cars today.â
Ryan Blaney, Newgardenâs teammate at Penske is a bit closer the new champion. And he probably has sway over the bosses at Penske; at least enough that it could get him some seat time in an Indy car. That didnât happen Friday, however.
âI lobbied to try to make a few laps today in that car,â Blaney said. âI got the ânoâ which is understandable.â
Blaney then put Fridayâs exhibition in perspective.
âI think everything is different, every little thing,â he said.Â âBut at the end of the day itâs racing.â