Dream or Nightmare?

Anne Proffit
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INDIANAPOLIS — For the past few weeks, I've had this dream. It's June, sometime around the Canadian and United States Grands Prix, and I'm at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's time to "Trade Paint" again, just like last June when Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon swapped rides for a day.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. © GM

That exercise, coordinated by IMS, by BMW and Speed TV resulted in a fun-filled day for both Gordon and Montoya, although the former was, as usual, a bit more effusive in his praise of the swap than the latter. (It wasn't too long ago that Montoya, please recall, didn't give more than one word answers when asked about how his car was working. "Okay" was the normal response, with a slight shrug of his broad shoulders.)

Anyway, in June of 2003 Gordon finally had the opportunity to sample the overall velocity, tractability - and braking capabilities - of the prior year's BMW-Williams FW24 Formula One projectile. Montoya wrestled the Chevy Monte Carlo NASCAR Cup car Gordon drives on a weekly basis. They utilized the Brickyard's 2.605-mile Grand Prix course.

Both came out of the experiment with bright eyes and nothing but glee. The smiles were infectious for the gathered mass of journalists and friends of both drivers; there wasn't a soul within the confines of 16th and Georgetown Roads who didn't have a grinning face.

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Ralf Schumacher © BMW Press

This year, there has been zero talk about a second Trading Paint session and that's a true bummer. The success of last year's experiment begs for another go-round and I've got just the scenario.

Some may think it's not a wise idea to bring the same teams here again, but in the case of the F1 car, I beg to differ. This big swapola could be a marketers delight if the folks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway brought BMW-Williams back again in 2004.

Why? Well, the Williams team was the first to eschew any tobacco advertising, working with computer companies and, last year adding the patronage of Budweiser Beer. It sure seems ironic to have the Bud logo in blue on the Williams F1 machine, doesn't it? At least the signage is bigger in its second season.

Can you see where this is leading? I propose a Trading Paint session with F1 pilot Ralf Schumacher and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ralf would drive Dale's big red #8 Bud Chevy Monte Carlo and Dale could squirm into Ralf's FW26 (or last year's model, for the sake of similarity to last year's program).

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