Two of NASCAR’s top drivers expressed a desire to race in the Indianapolis 500 during the stock car series’ annual visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend for the Brickyard 400.
Kyle Busch said he had a ride set up for May’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, but the two-time Brickyard 400 winner and 2015 Cup series champion didn’t get permission. Kyle Larson would like to run, too, although he didn’t sound as eager after seeing crashes in May involving Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais.
“I had it done last year, sold and everything, ready to go and I got a boss that said no,” said Busch, who led a race-high 87 laps Sunday before crashing out while battling for the Brickyard 400 lead.
When asked who didn’t give him the OK, Busch said, “Figure it out. I’ve got two bosses: one’s male and one’s female.”
The process of elimination suggests the dissenting boss is car owner Joe Gibbs and not Busch’s wife, Samantha, a Purdue University graduate and Indiana native.
In a 2016 interview with NASCAR.com, Samantha Busch was asked what she thought about Kyle’s interest in the Indianapolis 500.
“Well, I can't say it’s on the top of my list of things for him to do just because I am a worrier,” she admitted, “but I know that one day it is something that he really wants to check off his bucket list. So, although I will be a nervous wreck throughout, I will support him all the way if he decides to do it one day.”
Kyle Busch, 32, assured the Indy 500 is still a goal. His older brother, Kurt, had the opportunity to cross over from NASCAR and race in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, where he finished sixth for Andretti Autosport and was named the race’s rookie of the year.
In hindsight, Kyle Busch said that May wouldn’t have been the ideal time to try the Indy 500 because so much of the race buzz focused on the entry of two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso.
“I thought that I had a great opportunity to do it,” Kyle Busch said. “I’m kind of glad it didn’t come together because Alonso kind of stole the headlines the last time it was done, but maybe there will be more guys in the future coming over to run that race. I may have to split the limelight, if you will, with someone else if they want to do that race.
“I think it would be fun. It would be a unique opportunity. I think the biggest thing that scares my boss is I’ve never driven those cars.”
Larson, who at 24 has emerged as a NASCAR championship contender this season, is second in points driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. His owner has a lengthy history of Indy car success, which includes four outright Indianapolis 500 wins and another as co-owner of a team with Pat Patrick.
“I definitely think Chip would do it,” Larson said. “I think they’re all waiting on me, at this point, to say I want to do it. I do. But when I see Scott Dixon and Bourdais crash, it makes me think twice about it a little bit. I’ll get the courage up to do it someday, maybe next year or the year after. I want to do it at the right time.”
Dixon, a four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner for Ganassi, won the Indy 500 pole in May and walked away from a frightening crash in the race. Bourdais was racing for the pole in qualifying when he crashed, sustaining hip and pelvis fractures that have sidelined him since.
“I’ve got great teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing that I can lean on,” Larson said. “Scott Dixon is the best in racing. I can always talk to him. I’d be more curious to talk to Kurt Busch because he’s got my background and did an awesome job at Indy. If I ever did it, if I ever did get the chance, I’d talk to Kurt, for sure.”
Kyle Busch won a total of four races at IMS, two each in the Monster Energy Cup Series and XFINITY Series. Asked if he would trade those four wins for an Indy 500 victory, Busch paused.
“Nah, I’m good,” he said. “I’d certainly like to be able to just have an opportunity to go out (in the Indy 500) and earn it myself. If that day ever comes, we’ll see what happens.”