F1 retirees head for NASCAR

NASCAR Home for Retired Formula One drivers logoThe NASCAR Home for Retired Formula One drivers is set to welcome two new residents.

Jacques Villeneuve has been hovering on the outskirts of the series since his dismissal from BMW last year. And Toro Rosso refugee Scott Speed is tipped to join Red Bull’s NASCAR
squad.

Juan Pablo Montoya left MclAren to join NASCAR in the middle of last year. So why are F1’s outcasts turning to stock car racing?

It’s pretty clear why Montoya and Villeneuve have picked NASCAR over the other American options.

They have already won America’s two biggest open wheel racing accolades before arriving in F1: the Indianapolis 500 winners (Villeneuve in ’95, Montoya in ’00) and the CART championship (Villeneive in ’95, Montoya in ’99).

Neither would have much to gain from racing in either of the offshoots of CART that remain: the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series, where the composition is much weaker than it was in CART a decade ago.

Jacques Villeneuve, Indy Car, Long Beach, 1995 | FordBut it’s interesting that the younger Speed is aiming for a NASCAR seat – and it is seriously bad news for Champ Car and the IRL. Champ Car in particular is crying out for a competitive American driver since the defection of AJ Allmendinger to NASCAR last year.

Allmendinger, who is also backed by Red Bull, has gone from Champ Car World Series front runner to NASCAR non-qualifier – but the latter apparently pays much better.

Over a decade has past since the splitting of CART into the Indy Racing League and Champ Car. Today the series that was once a creditable rival to Formula 1 is an increasingly distant memory.

I’d like to think there were any hope of a merger between CCWS and the IRL but the two seem as implacably opposed as ever. CART in its heyday was a fine series and Villeneuve and Montoya’s talents belong in a top-level motor racing championship like that was.

Graphic: Dreamfly | Photo: Ford

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15 comments on F1 retirees head for NASCAR

  1. I admit I see no attraction in Nascar racing at all. But after talking with a friend from States last week, I think I can see why it is that popular in the States – it has all to do with the TV coverage and what the TV coverage offers to viewers. When I heard what the options are the F1 seem to be still in TV stoneage … Well and TV keeps the drivers in the spotlight, spotlight is the money … Where else would Speed be able to find that? A1 ? GP2 ? Hardly … And if he does not think about returning to F1, who can blame him for Nascar choice …

  2. I think Scott is linked to NASCAR because that’s where Dietrich Mateschitz wants him, in one of the Red Bull cars. If you asked Scott himself, he would probably admit that he’d prefer Champ Cars – it was his boyhood dream to drive in F1 and he has concentrated on open-wheelers throughout his career as a result.

    The rumour may be that it’s a done deal but I’m prepared to bet that Scott is talking to CC team owners in an effort to secure a seat for next year. Only if that fails will he take up the NASCAR option.

  3. Dan M said on 29th August 2007, 14:19

    I prefer open wheel racing but Nascar TV coverage is light years ahead of F1. Unfortunately the race at Bristol was this past weekend, I think it is the best example of why Nascar is so popular, great race, great coverage.Racing has become a business, to be successful you must make your customers happy, Nascar does a better job of that then any other major series.

    So for the drivers its all about the money and longevity, F1 has a very short life span, and your job is always in jeopardy. In Nascar you can race for decades and feel fairly secure that you seat is safe. Most fans (and sponsors) associate the brand with the driver not the car number or team. So if you want a successful ad campaign you need to retain the driver.

    You may not view the racing to be as technical or skilled- (a poor argument when F1 has TC and massive downforce compared to top heavy over powered stock cars) but the fact is that the drivers (even former openwheelers) love the competition and the friendly rivalry most of the drivers have (except Montoya and Harvick).

    But for the most part I think it boils down to securing their financial futures. Would you be willing to give up writing about F1 and take up Nascar if you were offered double the money and a job for the next x amount of years?

  4. Can I do both, Dan? ;)

  5. Dan M said on 29th August 2007, 18:30

    I already suggested you write a blog on Nascar, if nothing else it would give you something to do the 35 weeks there isn’t an F1 race on!

  6. Number 38 said on 29th August 2007, 19:32

    WOW! A few good words about NASCAR! That gives me hope that not ALL F1 fans are so biased as to think high speed parades are interesting. All remarks above are true, the DRIVERS are the stars not just employees whose fortune turn on the whim of some bonehead management. There’s tons of money, enough for EVERYONE, there’s good value for the fans and the racing is often close, four races this year….500 miles, decided by LESS than a car length and the people can and do get close, close enough to feel the HEAT and THUNDER when the field passes on the other side of a chain fence!
    And NO ONE leaves a NASCAR race early. NASCAR may not be as technical as F1 but it DELIVERS all we in F1 wish F1 could deliver. And if there’s any doubt about the scope of NASCAR teams may I suggest a visit to Childress Racing a 40 building campus, museum, guided tours open to the public and Childress runs a great wine vinyard at the same location, it’s a GREAT day out!!!!

  7. That’s true, you did, Dan. And I’m still thinking about it, honest. ;)

    But don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s nothing to do in the off season. In some ways that’s our busiest time, following up all the rumors and gossip, watching the new car launches, endless debates about driver changes, making news when there isn’t any (it’s been done!) and talking about old times. The races can come as a welcome relief after all that… :D

    And Number 38, I did some research into NASCAR and found a registered driver still going at the age of about 87, if I remember correctly. What the heck are you doing, fiddling about with gokarts? Get out there, get yourself a stock car and show the young ‘uns what’s what!

  8. Dan M said on 29th August 2007, 20:33

    I would like to see a spin off league that runs JUST on road courses in the current car (car of today?). Its great the F1 cars can break 50 feet before a turn but it leaves little room for outbraking. On the other hand a Stock car takes bout 300 feet so if you can just break 10 feet later, you have a chance to pass….. If you can get the power back down out of the apex.

    The most important thing is that we have respect for all types of motor racing(horse and dog racing disgust me due to the treatment of the animals).

    #38 – of all people I would have thought that you would be against Nascar, I guess your only as old as your mind is open to new ideas (if that makes any sense!).

  9. Dan: I glanced over a Nascar fan-blog where the author abbreviates “Car of Tomorrow” as CORN (or Car of Right Now.) At least he knows what he’s talking about, Nascar has its share of unnecessary politics too.

    Otherwise, as a motorsport, I only appreciate that it has the feeling of professional ice hockey- this compressed, watered down version of a motorsport that cannot be properly simulated in the US for some reason. I don’t know why they haven’t had a problem having moonshine running contests in other countries, where it is professionally named “World Rally Championship” ;)

    Despite the contact and apparent brutality of NHL hockey and Nascar racing, there is quite a bit of showmanship and sportsmanship, and although neither are my favorite thing in the world, I can respect anybody that can do something that physical well into their forties. Look at a list of Nascar’s currents and think about it.

  10. Number 38 said on 29th August 2007, 22:11

    A couple quick updates for fellow responders; Clive found a registered NASCAR driver aged 87, are you sure he’s a driver or a Team owner? Either way NASCAR is more forgiving and age is less of a detriment, a real NASCAR statesman, Mark Martin, is well over 50 and still producing top 10 finishes and he drove for the same team for 19 years !!!!!!
    Myself…..age 63 last month and all I can afford is a kart but let me assure you kart racing is like F1 in small scale, it requires many traits seen in F1, lightning fast reflexes, left foot braking, finding the apex of a turn when your head is 15 inches above the racing surface, there’s a reason so many F1 drivers still “play” with karts. My distain for the F1 youngsters probably comes from those around me on the grid…….no skill, they’re just fearless!…. and they weigh less. For Dan M.
    “against NASCAR” ….no way, I’m not against ANYTHING! For 30 years I raced sports cars and did a few years in Sprint Cars, raced at 10 US F1 GPs at Watkins Glen and twice at the Canadian F1 GP in Montreal, I ran in support races there, not the real thing, but that Drivers armband allows FULL particpation and I lived amoung the F1 teams those weekends. I am truly thankful for the experiences. One more remark for Keith the author……I’ll not be heading to NASCAR soon, I’ve not “retired” from F1 yet!

  11. Okay, I exaggerated a bit; he’s really only 73 years old. But here are the details:

    #158 James Hylton driving a Chevrolet, from Inman, South Carolina, born 8/26/1934.

    It’s true he only entered one race and hobbled around at the back somewhere but hey, he was there!

  12. Number 38 said on 30th August 2007, 14:17

    “hobbled around at the back”, we’ve got that in F1 too…….they’re ORANGE cars, they’re always in the way and frankly they don’t even have to qualify, they just have to show up! I think we all realize it’s the $$$ cost of F1 that retards entries but we’ve not had a “full field” of 24 in years and years and yet NASCAR usually has 70 cars vieing for the 43 grid places. Twice the cars and 100 times the ‘action’ and REALLY close finishes…… I enjoy F1 but I also admire the NASCAR races. Have you ever seen a NASCAR pitstop close up, how a wheel changer can buzz 5 lug nuts off, swap the wheel and buzz the five nuts back on ALMOST AS QUICK as an F1 wheel change. You have to give credit when and where its due. Oh sure, a pit stop is 15 seconds rather than 8 seconds as in F1 but they do MORE with only 8 people and re-fueling is by gravity, and tyre changing by ONE jack. It’s fascinating. Friday nights they have pitstop competitions for the public, they have driver autograph sessions…..do you suppose Bernie will ever dream up these novel ideas? He will as soon as he can print the TICKETS!!!!!

  13. Dan M said on 30th August 2007, 17:42

    Not a hot topic, It looks like we’re the only 3 who care.

  14. Eric M. said on 31st August 2007, 3:51

    Count me as a fourth. I’m not a huge NASCAR fan, but I respect it. There are definitely many areas in which F1 could take some cues from NASCAR, especially the pit stops!!! In NASCAR, ONE guy changes TWO tires and TEN lug nuts, and in F1 it takes THREE guys change ONE tire and ONE lug nut! In fact no other racing series in the world has pit stops that compare to NASCAR. If you’ve never watched one, you’ll choke on your hamburger when you do!

  15. verasaki said on 2nd September 2007, 2:35

    Of all the posts for me to take an interest in! I really don’t enjoy Nascar but, what’s happening there is spotlighting what’s wrong in the other series, F1 included. The competition for a sport consumer’s (and we are all that) time and money is on. TV,internet, there is so much available and a day still only has 24 hours even if you do ff through TVo.

    I doubt a IRL/CCWS merger would do any good at this point. Open wheel racing isn’t quite dead here but, it will take a clear plan and good backing to turn things around. The problem is, that while they thought they were poaching each other’s audience. assuming there would be a winner, the media world shifted and NASCAR was already working the marketing angle, seducing the potential US fan base and virtually all positive attention from both series. It’s also the reason F1 wasn’t able to grow a US market to profitable proportions based on a single race- they weren’t trying hard enough to saturate us with F1 and I think what Dan has keyed on is that NASCAR realized early on that they needed to make themselves absurdly accessible to both the media and the fans which the media tumbled to and found the story where it was readily offered- which grew the fan base. It didn’t hurt that it was a conspicuously American series, but I don’t think it was the South American or European drivers’ passports that drove viewers from either Champ Car or the IRL. People who knew I was interested in racing and had never seen a race knew who Zanardi was. Some of them even checked out a race or two and said they liked it-because it was genuine racing and it was good…and they had seen those cute boys on an ad racing Winnebagos (see Youtube/Target Zanardi Vasser)…I am still amazed a series featuring RV’s hasn’t been started, actually. Yeh, laugh, then check out “swamp buggy racing”. Another interesting aside is a lot of non-racing people I know also saw a post Indy 500 winning J Villeneuve race a NYC cabbie on David Letterman…marketing, pr….globalization is built on it. If you make it cute, they will come.

    But I digress. I think this is heralding a shift in American racing. For several years, NASCAR has been quietly moving away from the Thunder Road image it’s always been tied to, (it is a colourful history, yes, rooted in runnin’ ‘shine) but, I do wonder if anyone has thought about what is going to shape up in the next 10 years. Since Toyota announced they were off to the roundy rounds, I’ve been holding my breath to see what happens next, wondering if Nissan would take up a challenge, assuming Honda would and close on their heals Mercedes or BMW. I am not a NASCAR fan, and while I’m quite happy to poke fun at it and some of it’s fans, I do appreciate the level of talent it takes to put anything going that fast through an oval cattle chute. I have to admit, they are getting even my interest piqued on the sheer politics of it. I still don’t watch more than bits of the road courses but, I’m paying more attention than I ever have before and I’ll be very interested to see how NASCAR negotiates the minefield of keeping their fans while expanding outside the US, ( a race in Canada was always a logical move, but South America can’t be far behind, and not just an exhibition race either) manufacturer saturation, sponsors jockeying to get on board and cost containment this is probably going to create. Can a European race be far off? How low can the ticket price go and what’s the cost of advertising and how engaging can a good ol’ boy sound on the talk show circuit across the pond?

    Hold onto yer hats, boys, the rednecks may be coming!

    Sorry so long, but, Clive, if anyone offers you so much as an ARCA drive for a day, go for it.

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