Drivers Branching Out- A Good Thing

Photo: James Davison at Indianpolis in 2018

What used to be routine is now causing a stir. Several drivers made  news last week when they announced deals to drive a few races in a series other than their main one. To me, this is not a big deal. Drivers used to be itinerant gypsies, driving several times a week in different kinds of cars.

It wasn’t unusual to see the winner of the Indianapolis 500 in a sprint or midget race three days after collecting his check at the Victory banquet, then heading to Milwaukee the next weekend for another Indycar race. I seem to recall a year when A. J. Foyt led the standings in Indycar, USAC sprints, and USAC midgets. Foyt also won the Daytona 500 and LeMans. Mario Andretti also won Daytona and the F1 world championship. Lloyd Ruby and Dan Gurney had success driving almost anything.

Those days are pretty much gone now, but it seems as if drivers are starting to look for rides in different series again. In the past 12 months, Alexander Rossi has driven in Indycar, the Baja 1,00, and the Bathurst 12 hour race. I like that racers are starting to fill gaps in their schedules with more races. Fans find a newseries they enjoy while their favorite competes inanoher form of racing.

Outside of Indycar, Fernando Alonso left his Formula 1 ride to drive in the World Endurance Championship full time. He also drove for the winning Wayne Taylor Racing entry in the 2019 Rolex 24. Alonso has one Indianapolis 500 start on his resume and will participate n the Dakar Rally.

The most fascinating announcement last week concerned James Davison, mainly because he will have the same sponsor in both the Daytona 500 and at Indy. I think we may be seeing the beginning of a sponsorship trend.

I would like to see more arrangements like this for these two races. It gives potential sponsors two races instead of one. Sponsors also get great exposure from the two largest U.S. events on the racing calendar.  We also get to see a driver run in both NASCAR and the NTT Indycar Series.

To recap last week’s announcements:

Indianapolis 500 veteran James Davison will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. The effort is part of Jonathan Byrd’s Racing. Byrd’s, led by David Byrd, has paired with Davison the last two years at Indianapolis.  Oilfire Whiskey will be the primary sponsor at Daytona and an associate sponsor in May.

Davison has four start in NASCAR’s Xfinity series, all on road courses. The Daytona 500 will be his first drive in a Cup Series race. Davison has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He had a career best finish of 12th in 2019.

Dixon Gets a Ride Near Home

Scott Dixon will drive in the Bathurst 12 hour in Australia. In 2019, Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe teamed up in this race. Dixon will drive an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 car sponsored by Castrol. The race is just a week after the 2008 500 winner participates in the Rolex 24 with Wayne Taylor Racing.

After the Indycar opener in St. Pete in March, Dixon will have driven in three different series in seven weeks.

Bourdais, Leist Focus on IMSA

As of now, Sebastien Bourdais will drive full time in IMSA. He may get an Indycar drive or two.

Matheus Leist, who drove for A. J. Foyt Racing the last two seasons, will join JDC-Miller car 85 as the extra driver for IMSA’a four endurance races- the Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit LeMans. Leist will not drive for Foyt. I don’t see him getting any Indycar rides except possibly in May. In two Indianaolis 500s, Leist finished 13th in 2018 and 15th in 2019.

Thoughts for Bill Simpson

Safety innovator Bill Simpson suffered a major stroke this weekend. Please keep him in your thoughts.

 

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