Darrell Waltrip is one of NASCAR's all-time greats. He knows infinitely more about stock car racing than I ever will or care to know about, even if "boogity, boogity, boogity" is quite possibly the dumbest phrase in the history of mankind. Given Waltrip's stature and job as FOX race commentator, obviously he is going to be demand to talk NASCAR. Fine. However, sometimes he tries to speak of other racing series, and frankly he has no idea what he is talking about when he does.
Waltrip appeared on SPEED's Wind Tunnel Sunday night with Dave Despain and co-host Robin Miller. The following is a partial transcript:
Robin Miller: I have been beating this drum for I don’t know, too long for Despain’s taste, but you got Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne and Lil’ E all saying ‘we want to run the Indy 500, so if I’m the (IMS) Speedway, I’m going to accommodate these guys. How do you think they’d do?
Darrell Waltrip: I think they’d do great. Apparently, and I’ve never driven an Indy car, but apparently it’s a lot easier to get out of a stock car and get in an Indy car and be successful or competitive than it is to get out of an Indy car and get into a stock car. Seems like it is much more difficult to go from, like Dario, to go from an Indy car to a stock car and doesn’t seem to be able to make that transition. But Tony Stewart has been able to jump back and forth. Once you got the feel for the stock car and they would do great. If I’m Tony George and my focus is on the IRL, I’m going to make that happen. That would bring the Indy 500 back the prominence it once had.
You got to love Waltrip making assumptions about something he never drove. He also later called IndyCars (which are on average 40 mph faster than a stock car) "go-karts." Classy.
Look, as I've been told pretty much every time this comes up, IndyCar drivers that have headed to NASCAR haven't set the world on fire (even though Montoya is currently in a chase spot). However, why does that give people like Waltrip carte blanche to assume that it would be any different the other way around? This is not the 60s and 70s, where drivers drove everything and could jump from car to car. Back then, Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt both won the Daytona 500, while Donnie Allison raced the Indy 500 twice in the early 70s and finished 4th and 6th. That was then. Now, however, the cars have become so advanced and so specialized that they require almost completely different skill sets.
We've seen that quite a bit from the open wheel to stock car migration. However, there hasn't been any stock car to open wheel migration in a long time. The only recent conversion was Stanton Barrett this year, who has already washed out of IndyCar, although given that he was given the slowest car in the series, he never had a chance. Yes, this means my hypothesis can't be proven, even though I think it's logical. However, it means Waltrip's can't be proven either.
It is a problem though for IndyCar's quest for legitmacy. Let's be honest, NASCAR fans are the people IndyCar needs to get into the fan fold, as "stick-and-ball" fans mostly don't think racing is a sport. If Waltrip though, a respected member of the NASCAR community, feels a way that infers IndyCar is an inferior form of racing, it stands to reason that many NASCAR fans likely feel this way too. The real and perceived struggles of former IndyCar drivers in NASCAR, regardless of context, only confirms the belief in their minds. It'll be hard for IndyCar to convert fans who feel this way. It just adds to the myraid of problems affecting IndyCar today.
Darrell Waltrip Says It's Easier to Go From A Stock Car to an IndyCar With No Proof