What's all this talk about Formula One?

AJ Allmendinger's name surfaced recently in connection with reports of a US-based F1 team, only to have the rumour shot down as almost quickly as it began.

With sponsorship in hand for only seven more NASCAR Sprint Cup races, Allmendinger would be foolish to rule out a possible return to open-wheel racing, but he insists that securing full-time status in Cup is his overriding concern.

"My first goal right now is staying full-time in Cup," Allmendinger said. "You know, I believe that this is the toughest racing series in the world. I haven't worked this hard for two years to go out there and give up on it.

"What we're do doing now at Richard Petty Motorsports is a great thing. And we're going to try to continue that. But I'm never going to shut the door on anything."

If Allmendinger runs out of options in NASCAR racing, a return to IndyCars would be far more likely than a jump to F1.

Still, there's something about the romance of Formula One that's enough to pique the interest of many of NASCAR's top stars, even though the world's elite road racing series bears little resemblance to running ovals in a stock car.

Beyond the radical differences in the machines themselves, Formula One is far less competitive from top to bottom than Sprint Cup racing.

"I think that F1 would be awesome to go and experience," said three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. "The question really boils down to being competitive. It's hard to leave a championship-calibre team, a race-winning team, for sure, and go and start over.

"If you had a chance to go get in a red car (Ferrari) or a silver car (McLaren), it would be an easy decision. But a start-up team is really the tough part that whoever those drivers will be will have to face. I think that anyone who has ever driven a racecar looks at F1 and gets excited and would love to have an opportunity to drive one of those vehicles and to race at some of those tracks."

Kyle Busch had to turn down an invitation from Toyota to test-drive an F1 car last November because of a conflict with the Nationwide Series awards banquet. For Busch, the series has considerable allure, but he also has considerable business to attend to in Cup racing.

"It's definitely something I wouldn't shoot down, but I don't think it's the right time yet in my career and where I'm at," Busch said. "I'm happy with where I'm at. And, obviously, the focus here is to go for Nationwide and Cup wins and championships and compete for championships - try to dismantle Jimmie (Johnson) off the top of the throne, so we have to work on that.

"It's something that I'd love to give a shot at one day. Hopefully one of these days maybe I'll get a chance to drive one (an F1 car) and see if I'm any good at it."

Asked how he thought Busch would fare in a Formula One car, former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya was frank in his assessment.

"I have no idea," Montoya said. "What do you want me to say? I don't know. He grew driving these things (stock cars), and open-wheel is very different. He would have a very hard transition. He runs very well on the ovals. He does a very good job on the road courses. Last year he won both (Cup road course races). But it is a different car. It is a different animal."

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



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