Tony Stewart supports Busch’s Indy test

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A five-time Indianapolis 500 starter himself, Tony Stewart told the Indianapolis Star Tuesday he thinks his fellow NASCAR champion Kurt Busch could make the field too if he chooses to, next year.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind that he could make the (500’s) field,” Stewart told the Star’s Curt Cavin, following a sponsor event at the garage where he stores his classic cars. “If he gets with the right team — and obviously he’s going with Andretti — I don’t see any problem making the starting field for sure.”

Stewart last raced the Indy 500 in 2001, the second year he did “the double” of racing both at Indianapolis and at NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on the same day. Penske Racing had offered Stewart a chance to race in this year’s 500, according to a report by ESPN, but Stewart declined. Not only does he drive his No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, but he oversees the Stewart Haas Racing team as a whole.

Busch, who will test the IndyCar on Thursday for Andretti Autosport, last tested an open-wheel car for Bobby Rahal’s team in 2003. He also recently participated in a car swap with Australian V8 Supercars driver James Courtney at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, in a media event ahead of the V8 race there May 17-19.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.