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.
AJ Allmendinger lost the engine on his No. 47 Chevrolet on Lap 33 of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway, not long after winning Stage 1.
Allmendinger was running in 13th when the engine blew, a result of a bad shift. It is his first DNF at Sonoma.
The JTG Daugherty Racing driver, a favorite to contend in road course races, had started the race in fifth and made it to second before drifting back.
Once the race leaders pitted with four and three laps left in the stage, Allmendinger took the lead.
Allmendinger has started in the top five in the last five Sonoma races and not finished better than 14th.
“I haven’t missed a shift on a road course in 10 years,” Allmendinger told Fox Sports 1. “Just me. I was trying to be so patient, so smooth with it. It was unexpected. It’s on me. I let everybody down here.”
Jamie McMurray also experienced a mechanical issue that caused his engine to shut off and lose oil pressure, ending his day.
The NASCAR community paid tribute to World of Outlaws driver Jason Johnson, who died after a sprint car crash Saturday night at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway.
Johnson crashed after a restart racing for the lead. Witnesses said that Johnson’s car flipped and went through billboards outside Turn 3, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Johnson won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals. He finished sixth in the points last year in the World of Outlaws.
There has been a different winner in each of the last nine Cup races at Sonoma Raceway, site of today’s Cup race. Those nine winners have been Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.
Will there be a 10th different winner at the road course?
Here is all the information for today’s race.
(All times are Eastern)
START: Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley will give the command to start engines at 3:01 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:13 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 110 laps (218.9 miles) around the 1.99-mile road course.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 10:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:20 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Broadway Under The Stars in Sonoma Valley, Transcendence’s Meggie Cansler will perform the anthem at 2:55 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.
FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 80 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.
LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick led the final 22 laps to win last year’s race. Clint Bowyer placed second. Brad Keselowski finished third.
STARTING LINEUP: Click here for full qualification results.
Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway.
Martin Truex Jr. He probably had the best car at Sonoma last year; his team closes the deal this season.
Kevin Harvick. No one can stop him on an oval or a road course.
William Byron pulls off a shocking win in his first Cup race at Sonoma.
Jamie McMurray seesaws through the field, but gets track position in the closing laps.