Chevrolet has not received request from Earnhardt Jr. to drive an Indy car
NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks to the media during a press conference prior to practice at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Friday March 28, 2014. (AP / Mike McCarn)
Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, March 29, 2014 9:08PM EDT
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Chevrolet has not received an official request from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to swap race cars with Honda driver Graham Rahal.
Earnhardt and Rahal are both sponsored this year by Army National Guard, and Rahal reached out to Earnhardt last week via Twitter to see if NASCAR's most popular driver was interested in swapping cars.
The Twitter conversation sparked tons of fan interest, and the guard said it wanted to be part of a swap. But Earnhardt quickly quieted the talk two days later when he said he could not drive a Honda. Chevrolet and Honda are direct competitors in the IndyCar Series.
Jim Campbell, the U.S. Vice-President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports for Chevy, said Saturday the manufacturer would consider any proposal to drive an Indy car from Earnhardt but until then, any talk about a manufacture conflict is premature.
"If we get a proposal, we'll take a look at it and we'll look at it with an open set of eyes. The rest is hypothetical," Campbell told The Associated Press. "Broadly speaking about any Chevy driver that is currently on our roster, if they decided to go race in another category or series, of course we'd love to see them in Chevys. There's no doubt about that.
"In some cases it works out like that, and in some cases it doesn't."
Earnhardt has driven only Chevrolets since his 1996 NASCAR debut. His two races in sports cars were in a Corvette. He did drive a Pontiac in two seasons of exhibition IROC competition in 1999 and 2000, but all drivers in that series competed in identically-prepared Pontiacs.
He's also the owner of a Chevrolet dealership in Tallahassee, and his late father's dealership in North Carolina is still operating.
So he predicted Tuesday that getting into Rahal's Honda would be a large conflict.
"Well, he drives a Honda, which is more than just a speed bump," Earnhardt said earlier this week. "If I wanted to drive an IndyCar, I'm sure I could get with Penske or somebody who owned a Chevy and take a couple laps somewhere. But it would have been fun to do that with Graham because of the relationship with our sponsor and the history of our families.
"I look forward to meeting him one day, but I think the fact he has a relationship with a different manufacturer is going to make it challenging -- if not impossible -- for me to drive that particular car."
Chevrolet fields cars in IndyCar for both Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, two owners who also compete in NASCAR and could offer Earnhardt a car to drive.
Kurt Busch, who currently drives a Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR, will drive a Honda for Andretti Autosport in the Indianapolis 500. He was encouraged by Chevrolet before completing the deal with Andretti to work with a Chevrolet team for Indy, but the manufacturer ultimately agreed he could drive for Andretti.
Andretti was a Chevrolet team, and Busch tested a Chevy for Andretti last year when he first began pursuing the Indy 500. But the organization moved to Honda this year.
"We had a great two-year run with Andretti Autosport and when he did his original test, Andretti was with Chevy," Campbell said. "The conversation started when it was a Chevy team, and it just kept going. We'd certainly have liked to see Kurt in a Chevy for the 500, it just didn't work out."