After months of weatherman-like predictions Kurt Busch finally inked a deal to run the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport, and it’s fair to ask if more will follow his lead.
Now that the logistics are set up for Busch to get back and forth between the two races there is a certain economy of scale that comes into play if more drivers split the cost. If Busch is willing to share his transportation it could drive down costs, and could allow other others to do the double.
Another thing to consider is that with the new NASCAR playoff format it’s expected that every driver who wins a race will make the Chase, so if you’re someone like Dale Earnhardt or Kevin Harvick who have already won, you can afford to shift your focus for a race or two in order to prepare for an Indy 500 run.
Here’s my rundown of some of the likely candidates.
A.J. Allmendinger: The most likely driver to join Busch, Allmendinger has recent open wheel experience and doesn’t seem to have any sponsor conflicts. In NASCAR he’s aligned with a Chevy team, which could facilitate him ending up somewhere like KV Racing, which is supposedly looking into fielding a third team. Allmendinger was competitive in last year’s 500, he also ran in the last Indycar race of the 2013 season at Auto Club Speedway so there’s no reason to think he can’t pick up where he left off.
Brian Vickers: Last year Vickers tried to pick up where Tony Stewart left off, offering to pick up on Roger Penske’s offer to field a car that eventually went to Allmendinger. I haven’t heard anything about Vickers making an effort for 2014, but it wouldn’t shock me if he was quietly putting together a deal. The only real complication I can think of is he drives a Toyota, and they might not be happy with Vickers driving for one of their two largest competitors.
Kyle Larson: A few years ago when Larson said he’d be happy in either Indycar or NASCAR I assumed he was just being polite, but as it turns out he actually has passion to run the Indy 500. Jenna Fryer reported during the 24 Hours of Daytona that Larson has asked Chip Ganassi about running in the Indy 500 and didn’t get an answer. I think it’s a year or two early to see Larson in the 500, but Target just unveiled their sweet 25-year anniversary paint scheme, so maybe this is the year Target would want three cars at Indy.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Although Team Penske has said that running the Coke 600 isn’t a high priority for Montoya this year it might make a sense to field a third car for him. Stock car racing is still fresh for Montoya, and Penske Racing has the resources to field a team for him. Penske has shown that he’s willing to do whatever he can to promote Indycar, and having an Indycar driver do the double could generate attention.
Kasey Kahne: Hasn’t said anything recently about running the Indy 500, but he’s expressed interest a few times publicly in the past. Maybe Busch’s deal will prompt Kahne to put something together.
Danica Patrick: Patrick told Jeff Owens of the Sporting news that she doesn’t have any desire to return in to the Indy 500 unless she has, “A chance to win.” I read that as, “I will never return to the Indy 500,” because she wasn’t that competitive when she was running the post-merger series, and has no experience with the current chassis.