The topic of a potential doubleheader weekend featuring the NTT IndyCar Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series keeps coming up and one veteran who’s tasted plenty of success in both camps — Tony Stewart — says he’d be all for it.
Stewart retired from full-time driving duties at the end of 2016 to concentrate on his co-ownership of Stewart-Haas Racing (pictured) in NASCAR. That followed a sterling career that included his winning the 1997 IndyCar championship and three Cup Series titles — the only driver to accomplish both feats.
During the 12th annual Smoke Show at Texas Motor Speedway, a charity event that has raised more than $1.7 million to benefit children in North Texas, Stewart took time out to provide his thoughts on the significance of a potential doubleheader weekend.
“I think it would be awesome,” said Stewart, 48. “This (TMS) would be a perfect place to do it, too. I think it would be really cool. It would be a weekend on my calendar that I would make sure I was at the Cup race that weekend for sure. It’s just never been done. The hardest part for both series is going to be how different the racetrack is. When you’d go to Pocono or anywhere that ARCA would run with the Cup Series and you’d have different rubber (tires), it definitely made a difference.
“I remember when we did the first demo run the night of the (NASCAR) All Star race (at Charlotte Motor Speedway) in ’97, I remember how sketchy it was because the Goodyear rubber was down and we were on Firestone with IndyCar, and the rubbers really weren’t compatible. So that’s the only challenge they’ll have doing it. Aside from that, man, I think that’s about as big of a kickass weekend as you could ever ask for in motorsports, is have two major series like that here at the same time.”
Stewart, a 49-time Cup Series race winner, is surprised the evolution of motorsports over the last 20 years has made the prospect of a doubleheader credible.
“Yeah, because there’s too many egos involved,” Stewart said. “That’s why it hasn’t happened in motorsports. And when I say egos … the egos in IndyCar and the egos in NASCAR wanting to be the trump card in the deal. If they can let their egos down and think about what the fans like versus what they think, there’s a possibility you could have a really, really cool weekend here.”
The 1.5-mile Texas oval has played host to both IndyCar and NASCAR since 1997, which is a significant reason why Stewart believes it should be the preferred selection should the occasion arrive.
“I don’t know how many other places that you could do it,” Stewart said. “Where else would you do it? It just makes sense to me. And it’s not because we’re sitting here right now. This is the place I would pick if you were going to do that kind of a weekend.”
That thought by Stewart is certainly appreciated by TMS President Eddie Gossage, who has long been known as one of the elite promoters in motorsports. He made clear his interest in having his track be at the forefront of such an innovative endeavor.
“The truth is we would love to do a doubleheader,” Gossage said. “I don’t know that many people could pull that off, but there’s no question we could pull that one off. We’ve made sure that both IndyCar and NASCAR know about it. I don’t get any sense that it’s a real priority to either right now, but when and if the conversation is had, we’ll be in the conversation.
“I’m sure there are others that have an interest too, but we’ve been very successful at both Cup and IndyCar for a long time and others can’t claim that. So hopefully, if it happens anywhere, it would happen here — but I don’t see it anytime in the near future.”
While it might be a dream scenario, fitting a joint venture into the series’ respective schedules would be challenging. The IndyCar season typically runs March to mid-September, while NASCAR kicks off in February and continues through November.
Texas hosts two NASCAR weekends — one fall and one spring — with IndyCar sandwiched in June just two weekends after the Indianapolis 500. However, Gossage is willing to make the necessary changes to help make the schedule ideal for all involved.
“We’d be flexible, whatever works for everybody,” Gossage said. “Obviously, there are some months that don’t work because it’s so hot and whatnot in the summertime. I mean, it’s whatever they want to do.
“I would think it would have to happen in the last half of the season because of NBC — having the last half of the NASCAR TV broadcast package, and NBC also broadcasts the IndyCar races. So it probably has to be in the last half of the year. I can come up with some ideal dates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that would be it.”