15 June 2011
Lewis Hamilton and Tony Stewart swap cars at The Glen
Current Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has said much the same thing after running a Grand-Am race at the Glen last year, and Michael Printup said he would flag this up to NASCAR president Michael Helton right away.
"I've asked them over and over again, and I think this was just the real live testimonial that it can happen," he said. "Our races are becoming shorter now [in duration], because we've paved all the gravel traps, and we've taken out a lot of the mishaps and [lost a lot] of track time. Now we just have to pave 8, which is down in the heel of the boot, and I think we could have some great racing.
"Like Tony and I were talking after the [car swap], it's just going to give us a lot more opportunity to pass," Printup continued, saying that the trade-off would see a reduction in the number of overall laps. "I think that would make it more exciting for the fans, and it opens up another major section where fans love to view racing."
At 40, there's no chance any more of Tony Stewart ever making the move to F1, but a future career in NASCAR may be something that 26-year-old Lewis Hamilton considers whenever he decides his time in F1 is up.
He would be in good company, with former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve and Hamilton's predecessor at McLaren Juan Pablo Montoya already having gone down that road with varying degrees of success - Montoya already having made history by becoming the first non-American driver to make it through to the post-regular season Chase.
"I'm good friends with Juan," said Stewart. "I like talking to him about what we did in IndyCar racing, his stint in F1. He's a great competitor in the Cup Series. My driver on our team [Ryan Newman], they had a little run-in earlier this year which put me in a bad spot because I'm friends with both of them.
"It's fun to watch guys like [Montoya]. We had him at our [Prelude to the Dream] charity dirt race a couple years ago. He had never been on a dirt track, never driven that type of race car. To watch him adapt to that type of car so quickly, it shows there's great race car drivers around the world. It's a matter of where do they want to be, do they have opportunities."
Stewart made an offer to Hamilton about dirt tracking, should he be interested and available in 2012: "If he wants to come run The Prelude next year, I will personally pay for a brand-new car to come there. If he wants it, he's got it. We'll have him a brand-new one sitting there ready to go!
"Guys like Juan and Nelson [Piquet Jr. in the Truck Series] being able to have the success they're having will create other opportunities for other foreign drivers to come into the series. Our sport has evolved so much over the last 15, 20 years, it used to be a regional sport in the States, now it's nationwide and worldwide. I think NASCAR welcomes everybody with open arms."
Hamilton admitted that "I've not been to a NASCAR race, but I would love to go and get a feel and sense ... I'm sure around the world there's things that we all can learn from each other." But Lewis knows that to turn up to watch a NASCAR race anytime soon would most likely set all sorts of rumours about imminent series defection swirling, much as a meeting with Christian Horner in Montreal had convinced many F1 pundits that a switch for him to Red Bull was on the cards.
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