By David G. Firestone
NASCAR and the FIA announced this morning that starting in 2015, they will engage in a ride-swap program. Starting next Memorial Day, Formula 1 drivers will race in the Coca Cola 600, and NASCAR drivers will race in the Grand Prix of Monaco. NASCAR and F1 will race each others equipment in their respective races.In responding to the decision, FIA President Jean Todt stated that “Now we can bring a form of racing to America’s biggest stage that is under appreciated in the United States.” F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting stated “It’s going to be a serious challenge. The drivers and pit crews are not as prepared for this type of racing. We need to figure out new training and perperation methods for this 600 mile race. That said, I am really excited for our prospects!”
Brian France, Chairman and CEO of NASCAR stated “We are always on the lookout for new ways to promote the sport, and we are always looking for new venues and ideas for the Sprint Cup Series. Moncao will be a great way to bring a new, more international audience to NASCAR.” Mike Helton, President and COO of NASCAR stated “The new venue and the logistics will be very difficult, since many NASCAR drivers do not have that much experience in this form of racing.”
While the officials are very pleased at this new plan, the drivers are not as happy. Lewis Hamilton, who raced Tony Stewart’s Chevy at Watkins Glen a few years ago said “That type of driving is fun for a while, but I sure don’t want to race a 600 mile race in that car. Vision is restricted, the driver compartment is too hot, and I’m afraid of dehydration. While Tony Stewart could not be reached for comment, Kurt Busch was quoted as saying “Are you [Explative deleted] kidding me? We have to travel 10,000 [Explative deleted] miles to race in [Explative deleted] Monaco in [Explative deleted] F1 cars? I would rather [Explative deleted][Explative deleted][Explative deleted][Explative deleted] than race an F1 car!”
Fan reaction has been mixed. Some fans, like Alex Montgomerry of Charlotte complained “We look forward to the Coca Cola 600 all year, and now we have to watch a bunch of drivers we have never heard of race in cars they have never raced in?” William X. Jackson of Kannapolis North Carolina said “It will be a change, but I’m interested to see how it works out.” Rene Claude of Nice France said “While I am not a fan of NASCAR, I am interested in seeing how this race works out.” Claude D’Adele of Paris stated “If that happens, I, like many fans will not attend the race. I want to watch F1 drivers, not NASCAR drivers at Monaco!”
While the racing world is divided amongst those who are in favor, and those who are opposed, both NASCAR and F1 are convinced that this new partnership will increase fan interest for NASCAR internationally, and F1 in the United States.