The possibility of joining in the fun when the V8 Supercars Championship makes its maiden visit to the United States next year has raised enthusiasm for the class within the NASCAR community.
Speedcafe.com spoke to a variety of NASCAR drivers, team owners, sponsors and media at the weekend’s IRWIN Tools Night Race in Bristol to gauge interest in the Australian championship’s upcoming sojourn to the currently-under-construction road course in Austin, Texas.
The need to include locally-based drivers in the event in order to gain traction on the US sporting landscape was the most common theme amongst respondents.
Although the timing and format has yet to be confirmed, a rumoured late May date could see the category perfectly placed to lure NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers competing in Charlotte’s All-Star race which traditionally runs on the second last Saturday night of the month.
No NASCAR drivers are understood to have been contacted about competing at this stage due to the date uncertainty, but linking with the All-Star event is a concept that former V8 Supercar and current Sprint Cup driver Marcos Ambrose says could work well.
“To make it a success I think they need some US stars to compete,” Ambrose told Speedcafe.com.
“Our schedule is 40 weeks long so it’s pretty hard to find an opening, but I think it (running on the All-Star weekend) would work. The race doesn’t finish until around midnight, but we’re on planes all the time anyway so it can definitely still be done.
“I think the category just needs to set a date and its prize money and then start contacting some drivers and see if it will work out. I know there’s a bunch of drivers that’d like to do it if it would pay and be worth their while.”
NASCAR’s director of competition communications, Kerry Tharp, confirmed that the category would have no problem with seeing its drivers compete in the V8 Supercar event, citing the busy tarmac and dirt schedules currently enjoyed by the likes of Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne.
“Our drivers when they’re not racing in NASCAR they’re often racing other events,” Tharp told Speedcafe.com when asked of any potential concerns.
“I think it remains to be seen if they would actually do that (Texas), it may be effected by their team contracts with sponsors and so on, but I wouldn’t rule it out. At the end of the day our guys just like racing.”
Speed TV analyst and former Sprint Cup series winning crew chief Jeff Hammond believes that Ambrose’s own performances in NASCAR have ensured that many drivers across the sport’s three tiers would be eager to race if the dates work out.
“V8 Supercars is the sort of series that a lot of our regulars, be it Truck Series, Nationwide or Sprint Cup, would love to have the opportunity to be driving in,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“We know we’re going to be at Charlotte Motor Speedway for almost two weeks in late May, and what better way could you bridge the gap between the All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600 weekend then to have a V8 Supercars series race?
“Our guys have stepped up on the road courses in recent years,” he added. “It’d be a really unique opportunity to see how good the V8 Supercar guys really are, and how quickly our guys could adapt to the different equipment.”
Ambrose meanwhile was one of several to warn against any format that would pit the Sprint Cup stars directly against the Australian drivers.
“I don’t think you could throw the Cup drivers in with the regulars,” he said.
“Jamie Whincup is one of the best road racers in the world but if you put him in a Sprint Cup car then he’s not going to do much good. It’s the same with those (NASCAR) guys. They’re going to need seat time to experience those cars. They’re on the wrong side of the vehicles to start off with, most of those guys would be freaked out by that!
“They’re all pro drivers and they’d get used to it, but it’s a matter of how much time they’d have to get on with it.”