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Jimmie Johnson hopes for ‘more crossover’ between auto racing stars

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For one day last November, Jimmie Johnson was the envy of the NASCAR community.

A week after the end of the Cup season, the seven-time Cup champion swapped rides with Formula One star Fernando Alonso and piloted a F1 car around the Bahrain International Circuit.

It was the third such swap between NASCAR and F1 drivers following the Jeff Gordon-Juan Pablo Montoya switch in 2003 at Indianapolis and the Tony Stewart-Lewis Hamilton swap in 2011 at Watkins Glen.

On Tuesday, Johnson expressed a desire to see “more crossover” between auto racing’s elite in competitive circumstances and to see stars moonlighting to support smaller series.

“I just think that in motorsports in general, we need guys to cross over from a local level,” Johnson said during Hendrick Motorsports’ media day after being asked about NASCAR’s influence in the Chili Bowl Nationals. “Although the Chili Bowl is huge, but they’re Midgets and more people typically get their starts (at that level).

“Our stars come back down and run and put on such a great show. That helps them and I think it helps us. It also helps that community and there are a lot of young drivers that are trying to find their way up.”

The Chili Bowl, held last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was won by Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell for the third straight year. He had to battle Cup driver Kyle Larson in the final feature, with the outcome being decided with a last-lap pass.

Johnson then turned to the major racing series and the lack of crossover between them in recent years.

“Hopefully we can get more crossover going, even between IndyCar and NASCAR or NASCAR and Formula 1 or whatever it might be,” Johnson said. “I feel like we had a lot of heroes that we looked up to and those guys would race anything and everything.

“And in the last 20 or 30 years, we’ve focused more on championships than we have marquee events. And I completely understand why, but it’s really nice to see people trying to move around and race other things. Hopefully we’ll have somebody trying the double again at Indy and Charlotte. There is a lot of good that comes from those opportunities.”

Kurt Busch was the last driver to attempt “The Double” of competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in 2014.

The prospect of Larson, who competes for Chip Ganassi Racing, making the attempt has been brought up on a somewhat regular basis in recent years with Larson saying in July 2017 that violent IndyCar wrecks at IMS have kept him from committing to it.

Kyle Busch said in July 2017 he had committed to make an attempt at The Double before it was shut down by Joe Gibbs.

In 2016, Brad Keselowski teased everyone when he took a few laps around Road America in a Team Penske IndyCar during a test.

There were crossovers between IndyCar and NASCAR in 2018 with Danica Patrick competing in the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 and a Xfinity Series start by Conor Daly at Road America.

Other than that, the list of drivers who have expressed an interest in making the jump from open-wheel to stock cars without fulfilling it gets longer every year.

That goes both ways. In November, Johnson expressed a desire in giving IndyCar a try on road courses.

But Johnson said he doesn’t have any forays into other series planned right now.

“I have some great new friends at McLaren and they have lots of things getting involved with racing-wise,” Johnson said. “So, down the road there could be some opportunities there for me potentially. I’d love to go endurance racing with Fernando (Alonso).

“We joked about that some. Nothing has developed from that yet, but hopefully down the road we can send some more teasers out and have some more fun.”

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IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe interviews Kyle Larson (VIDEO)

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For 30 minutes Friday, Verizon IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe sat down with and interviewed NASCAR driver Kyle Larson and fellow IndyCar driver Conor Daly.

The interview, part of Hinchcliffe’s show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, took place at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show.

Hinchcliffe started the interview by asking Larson about a photo he tweeted of him sitting in the cockpit of IndyCar champion Scott Dixon’s car.

It was taken during a Chip Ganassi Racing promotional shoot, but Larson said he’s petitioning owner Chip Ganassi to allow him to race in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 and attempt “The Double” of competing in the Coca-Cola 600.

The driver of the No. 42 also talked about his experience driving in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and his first year of fatherhood.

Hinchcliffe asked him if the rumor was true that when you become a father “you lose two tenths.”

“Maybe, I had a worse year this year,” joked Larson. “I did qualify better.”

Larson also talks about the frustration of not winning a race in his first two seasons in the Sprint Cup Series.

Performance Racing Network announcer to cover Indy 500, Coke 600

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A new name will be added to the list of famous names that have attempted the “double” of participating in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in some form or another.

John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and … Doug Rice?

Sunday will mark the first time that a broadcaster will work both the Indy 500 and the Coke 600. Rice, president of the Performance Racing Network, will cover pit road at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the IMS Radio Network. Then he will make the trip to Charlotte, N.C. to co-anchor PRN’s broadcast of NASCAR’s longest race of the year.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” said Rice in a release. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, to be truthful, it’s been a dream of mine since Andretti pulled off the first double in 1994.”

The “double” attempt will come with “logistical” support from the Shell Oil Company.

“I’ve always been in awe of the drivers who were able to survive the impact of the double,” said Rice. “And even though this will be different kind of double, it will still be a challenge. I’m betting on energy and adrenaline to keep me going through the day in Indy and during the night for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.”

Rice’s day of covering 1,100 miles of racing will have its own hashtag on social media, #DougDouble.