It looks hard to Coulthard

June, 1, 2008

DOVER, Del. -- The latest who-would-believe-it moment for NASCAR was seeing Formula One driver and proper Scottish chap David Coulthard in Dover to watch the Best Buy 400.

Coulthard is a NASCAR admirer. Who knew?

What's next? Queen Elizabeth having dinner at White Castle?

Coulthard knows that many Formula One fans turn down their noses at NASCAR, believing it's inferior racing to F1. But Coulthard says the F1 drivers don't see it that way.

"I don't think any of us look down at the driving talent here," Coulthard said. "If we poked fun in the past, it was the athletic side of it. There's a bigger spread in age and [physical] shape of the drivers here. But it had nothing to do with talent.''

Coulthard also doesn't buy the prevailing logic in Europe that no NASCAR driver could compete successfully in F1.

"I believe a NASCAR driver could adapt to a single-seater F1 car more quickly than we could in NASCAR," he said. "And I'm not just saying that to be nice because I'm here. The NASCAR drivers have to fight these heavy cars around these ovals. Any F1 driver understands how difficult that is. I have great respect for these guys.

Coulthard said the respect level for NASCAR is growing in Europe because of how difficult the Sprint Cup Series has been for open-wheelers Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti.

"We've watched them very closely," Coulthard said. "People look at it and say, 'I know that guy is a credible driver, so the championship must be credible.'

"It would appear to be extremely difficult to come into NASCAR without oval experience and have any success. You either grow up racing ovals or you need to commit a long time to getting up to speed."

Coulthard said he has admired NASCAR for a long time because he likes the close competition in many events.

"For pure racing, NASCAR is as good as it gets," he said. "It's racing wheel-to-wheel for 36 weekends. We have half that many races, but I'd gladly do twice as many races if we could swap that out with the amount of testing we do in front of empty stands."

Coulthard drives for the Red Bull team in F1. He came to Dover to watch Brian Vickers and A.J. Allmendinger race for Red Bull's Cup team. Coulthard also is doing Red Bull promotions in conjunction with the F1 event in Montreal next weekend.

Coulthard sat in a Cup car Sunday morning.

"I felt like I'd never been in a race car before," he said. "You can't see anything. And it was hot not even running. The awareness the guys have to have is incredible.

"I would be extremely nervous jumping into NASCAR, never having driven an oval. I would be much more comfortable in a sports car on a road course."

Other than the cars, Coulthard was asked what he thought were the biggest differences between NASCAR and F1.

"F1 is a little less fan friendly," Coulthard said. "The NASCAR model succeeds because of the fan access. Fans can relate to the cars and drivers.

"F1 is a bit more aspiration oriented. Clearly, there's not as much access. You can't buy passes to be in the paddock area. Even people involved in the sport for many years can't get them for family and friends. But making it more difficult means more people want them."

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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