Auto racing notebook: Ganassi has talked to Busch about Indy 500
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Chip Ganassi Racing has had a preliminary discussion with Kurt Busch about running the Indianapolis 500.
“I’ve talked to him,” Ganassi team President Steve Lauletta said Tuesday. “I don’t know if it’s going to work for us. We haven’t gotten to a point where we know if we can run a fifth car for the Indy 500. If we did that, then we’d be able to have a more detailed conversation. But we haven’t made that decision yet.”
Busch put his chances Monday at “70 percent” at running the 500 this year. He said his options were Andretti Autosport and one other team he declined to identify.
Busch said his first choice would be to partner with Andretti because he tested with the team last season. He completed the Indy 500 rookie orientation program with Andretti, but IndyCar officials said Tuesday that Busch would likely need to pass the final two phases again as a refresher if he were to compete in the 500.
Busch drives a Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR, and Andretti fields Hondas in IndyCar. Busch said he did not think there was a conflict with him driving for a competing manufacturer, but a Chevrolet official said Tuesday it would be their first choice for Busch to drive for a General Motors team.
Ganassi fields Chevys in both NASCAR and IndyCar.
Date change for Sprint Showdown: Charlotte Motor Speedway officials are changing the schedule for the 30th annual Sprint Cup All-Star Race weekend in May.
Speedway President Marcus Smith said Tuesday that the Sprint Showdown qualifying race will move to Friday night, May 16 – the night before the popular All-Star Race. The race was previously held on Saturday as a prelude to the All-Star Race.
Qualifying will move from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.
By moving the Sprint Showdown to Friday night, Smith said fans will get “more bang for their buck” with a chance to see Sprint Cup cars and a Truck Series race on the same night.
The top two finishers in the Showdown qualify for the All-Star Race. Fans will also vote one driver into the race on Friday night.
Those three drivers will now have a chance to qualify for track position on Saturday as part of the three-lap, mandatory four-tire pit stop qualifying event. In the past, the two Showdown qualifiers and the fan favorite started at the back of the field for the All-Star Race since qualifying had already been completed.
“Come Saturday, what we wanted to see is everybody that is competing for that All-Star trophy,” Smith said. “There won’t be any confusion over why is my driver on the track, or not. Now everybody racing on Saturday will be competing for the Sprint All-Star race trophy and the million bucks.”
Johnson supports overhauled Chase format: Jimmie Johnson was stunned by the proposed changes to the championship format that NASCAR chairman Brian France laid out in a phone call two weeks ago.
The six-time champion did not believe he was being picked on by NASCAR executives grasping for any way possible to end his dominance of the Sprint Cup Series.
Instead, Johnson was taken aback because he had not heard the proposal before in multiple discussions with NASCAR.
“It just caught me off guard and shocked me, and I told Brian when he called me, ‘Just give me a minute to adjust, because I’m on my heels,”’ Johnson said Tuesday.
NASCAR will officially announce its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format on Thursday. All signs point to a 16-driver field whittled down through eliminations to four drivers and a winner-take-all season finale.