Fernando Alonso’s entry into the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 is the latest mega-crossover in a race that has been famous for them for decades.
With a few notable exceptions (wins by Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt and a 1993 one-off for Al Unser Jr.), the Daytona 500 hasn’t featured as many interlopers from other circuits.
While some major hurdles would need to be cleared to put together a car and team for the 2018 Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, it would be a PR win for NASCAR to add some international flavor to the Great American Race.
Here are five drivers (plus three additions) with Formula One ties that we would like to see race in NASCAR’s crown jewel.
- Lewis Hamilton: Based off his attendance at the 2015 Cup finale to watch Jeff Gordon and his car swap with Tony Stewart, the prospect obviously entices him. And with apologies to Alonso and everyone else on this list, Hamilton’s presence at Daytona easily would have the most resonance for NASCAR. His friendship with Gordon and Stewart ensures he would receive a wealth of good advice on drafting tips, and if he were driving a Hendrick- or Stewart-Haas Racing-prepared car, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t contend given the proper training.
- Kimi Raikkonen: There’s unfinished business for the incomparably laconic Finn. Raikkonen has said he wants to run a Cup race to put a cap on his 2011 foray into truck/Xfinity at Charlotte Motor Speedway (a planned debut in NASCAR’s premier series at Sonoma that year was dashed by a testing wreck). Based on how he impressed at Charlotte (15th in his first career race on an oval), Raikkonen surely would acquit himself quite well on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval. And his effervescent congeniality no doubt would win over the media center with every mumbled quote.
- Nico Rosberg: Hey, what else does the reigning Formula One champion have going on at the moment? Rosberg seemingly would have the most ample time for focusing on learning how to drive a stock car, and the 31-year-old also remains at the height of his powers (23 victories in F1 from 2012-16).
- Rubens Barrichello: He has the big-league oval experience from his 2012 season in IndyCar, starting 11th and finishing 10th in the Indianapolis 500.
- Mark Webber: The man whose Twitter handle is “@AussieGrit” seems to have the right temperament for tackling a 500-mile race, and he also seems friendly with a few NASCAR blokes.
UPDATE: Naturally, our alert readership brought some notable misses to my attention, so here are 5a and 5b:
—Daniel Ricciardo: He ran a No. 3 go-kart as a tribute to “The Intimidator” … which has earned him an open invite from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to race a JR Motorsports car on a road course.
–Haas F1: Obviously, acquiring a ride probably would be easiest for drivers Romain Grosjean (who wanted to run Sonoma last year with Stewart-Haas Racing) and Kevin Magnussen.