NASCAR champ wants F1 test. Use the USGP to make it happen

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Four-time reigning NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, who won last weekend for the first time on a NASCAR road course, is saying he’d love to get an IndyCar or F1 test.

The comments seem to have come during driver interviews as part of this weekend’s NASCAR race, and they are a few places on the Internet.* But, as usual, Autosport has them best:

“The way I grew up, IndyCar racing was the only asphalt exposure I had. So I dreamt of racing in the Indy 500, we’d go to the Long Beach Grand Prix and hoped that I’d be on that circuit racing at some point.

“My path has clearly taken me in a different way and I know it would be very difficult to get an F1 test, but maybe putting it out there and being creative, it could happen.

“Even driving an IndyCar – I know ovals aren’t the safest thing, but just to experience that on a road course would be really good for me. I think running a Grand Am car has helped me be a better road course racer and that would be another step up that.

“It would be faster speed, deeper braking zones, the capabilities of the car, how it turns in. I think the Grand Am series has been real good for me and going faster yet would make it even better.”

Johnson — who is 34, by the way — credits his road win to getting behind the wheel of Daytona Prototypes in the American-based Grand Am series. Yep, the guy found a place where he could practice turning left and right.

You’ll note that Johnson sounds pretty realistic about the chances, his age probably being somewhat of a factor. I’d think he could find a test in an IndyCar, although I can’t help but notice how he says, “Even an IndyCar” like, well, “If I had to do an IndyCar test, I guess that would be OK.”

He does raise an interesting possibility of how to make it happen, though. There’d need to be some “creative” commercial benefit. Huh. I wonder what that could be. When and where might F1 be interested in getting American motorosports fans’ attention?

Anyone?

OK, enough. Obviously the 2012 USGP in Austin will be needing all the pizazz and PR it can get (sadly, the return of F1 to America probably won’t be a big enough story by itself). And while that is a little while for Johnson to wait (he may need to come up with an idea that gets him a test sooner), it sure works for the grand prix.

F1 should “open its doors” and bring in several of the top NASCAR names that weekend, if at all possible, and get them behind the wheels of an F1 car. (Interestingly enough, I’m not sure Johnson would make the marketing cut for this event. While he’s an unprecedented winner, he doesn’t have the biggest personality.) While their best days are behind them, both Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. remain big, big names. Kyle Busch is probably the “guy we all like to hate” right now. and he almost did an F1 test a few years ago.

This could definitely be a way to get the USGP onto the radars of non-F1 fans.

Oh. And, you know, Danica has dipped her toe in the NASCAR water, too.

Does it make sense? What other marketing schemes should the USGP promoters be working on?

* As much as we all complain about F1 and its Internet engagement, the F1 official site is a heck of a lot better and more helpful than the NASCAR one. NASCAR’s was touch to navigate and I never found the “unvarnished” driver interviews that are routinely on the F1 site. F1 could get more open and engaged, but its site is not bad and is certainly a clean, easy to use one.

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