IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti appears headed for NASCAR. Jacques Villeneuve, who won titles in two open-wheel series and the Indianapolis 500, is already making the transition and will run his first Truck Series race next week.
Juan Pablo Montoya, the former CART champ, Indy 500 winner and Formula One driver, is in his first season in the Nextel Cup Series. Three-time IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. has been racing part-time in the Busch Series.
“It shows how strong NASCAR is, how much fun the series is and where these guys really want to be,” two-time Nextel Cup champion and former IRL driver Tony Stewart said Thursday.
It’s believed that Franchitti, who also won this year’s Indy 500, will join the Chip Ganassi Racing team. That would make him NASCAR teammates with Montoya, who beat Franchitti for the CART title in 1999.
Montoya got his first Cup victory and had four top-10 finishes in the 26 races leading into NASCAR’s Chase for the Nextel Cup championship, and was 20th in points. His first NASCAR victory was in the Busch race at Mexico in March.
Jeff Burton said having former F1 drivers like Villeneuve and Montoya provide NASCAR “instant worldwide recognition.” Villeneuve won F1 and CART titles.
“Immediately F1 fans around the world look at Cup in a different light,” Burton said.