Count Danica Patrick out of Indy 500 — but not Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger

6 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Even though new Stewart Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch hopes to realize his lifelong dream to race in the Indianapolis 500 this May – and then double up by competing later the same day in NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte — count Danica Patrick out of doing the same.

“I love the Indy 500, it’s an amazing event and everybody should go see it at some time,” Patrick said during Monday’s opening of the 32nd NASCAR Media Tour. “But as far as me as a driver, I’m not seeking it out anymore.”

Patrick competed in the 500 seven times in her previous IndyCar career, with a career-best finish of third in 2009. Her last 500 was 2011, when she finished 10th.

She considered attempting to do the fabled “double” last year, but efforts fell short due to logistics, not to mention she was trying to keep her focus solely on her first full season on the Sprint Cup circuit.

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t take the opportunity if I felt like I was in a position to win a race, but after last year when it didn’t work out, I’m no longer trying to make that happen,” she said.

Busch was looking like a kid in a candy store, talking about racing in this year’s 500, during Monday’s NASCAR session.

“It’s grabbing traction again,” Busch said. “It’s through two teams (one being Andretti Autosport and a second unnamed team), through a couple different sponsors, and the intrigue is there for me for something to tackle in life. On the business side, it needs to make sense there, but I’m starting to push the business sense aside and just go and do it and have the fun and to say I ran Indianapolis. It’s grabbing traction and I have the blessing of Gene Haas and Tony Stewart to go and do it.”

Busch, who has also dabbled in drag racing in recent years during time away from Sprint Cup, is feeling optimistic that he’ll be part of this year’s 500 field.

“It’s about 70-30 right now, 70 percent that we’re going to do it” Busch said. “We just have to balance all the things that have to come with it, schedule, sponsorship, the teams. My commitment is there, we don’t have to second-guess that. But I’m going to have to train harder if I’m going to be ready for 1,100 miles in one day.”

Busch may not be the only NASCAR driver at Indianapolis. AJ Allmendinger, back on the Sprint Cup circuit on a full-time basis in 2014 with his new team, JTG Daugherty Racing, is also looking at possibly doing the Memorial Day double.

“There’s always a chance, but it would have to be the right situation,” said Allmendinger, who started fifth and finished seventh racing for Roger Penske in last year’s Indy 500, but did not compete in the 600 later that day. “Obviously, doing it with Roger would be the right situation.

“I’m not a guy that wants to do it just to do it, to say I’ve tried both. I think it’s based first on how this season is going – obviously this is my biggest priority. Tad’s (team owner Tad Geschickter) all for it. When Roger brought the idea up to him initially when we did this deal, Tad was all for it. He said we’d sell a lot of charcoal products on that weekend (one of Allmendinger’s chief sponsors with JTG Daugherty is Kingsford Charcoal).

“I would love to do it. I don’t know with the third car, with Juan (Pablo Montoya) there now, is a possibility. But if it’s the right situation, I’d definitely be interested.”

Penske drivers lament missed victory at Road America (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Team Penske dominated the entire Kohler Grand Prix weekend at Road America, twice going 1-2-3-4 over the three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday and then doing the same in qualifying, with Helio Castroneves taking pole from Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud.

However, race day represented a missed opportunity. Though Castroneves led early, it was Newgarden who emerged as their best hope for victory following a spectacular outside pass on Castroneves entering turn 1 on lap 19. That put Newgarden in the lead, and he seemed to be in full control.

Still, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon had been stalking the Penske foursome all race long, and sat behind Newgarden in second for a lap 30 restart. With Newgarden on primary blacks and Dixon on alternate reds, Newgarden was somewhat of a sitting duck, and Dixon muscled his way into the lead with an equally spectacular outside pass in turn 1, with Newgarden briefly falling to third behind teammate Castroneves.

Josef Newgarden led several laps, but could not find his way around Dixon for the win. Photo: IndyCar

Although Newgarden regrouped, overtook Castroneves during the final pit stop sequence, and closed to within a second following a restart with seven laps remaining, he was never close enough to make a move for the win.

Even though the Team Penske drivers all finished in the top five, going 2-3-4-5 with Newgarden leading Castroneves, Pagenaud, and Power, missing out on victory was a bitter pill to swallow.

“It stings a little bit coming home second when you feel like you have a winning car,” Newgarden revealed in the post-race press conference.

He added that an ill-timed lap 28 caution for a spinning Takuma Sato ultimately put paid his chances of victory. “The caution didn’t fall our way. You can’t predict that stuff. It hurts when it comes at the wrong time. That’s pretty much what happened today. With (Tim Cindric calling the strategy), I feel confident with all our decisions, everything those guys do on the pit box. Things just didn’t fall our way today.”

For Castroneves, a slight error before his final pit stop saw him pit earlier than the team wanted, due to an alarm that went off in the cockpit. However, as he explained to NBCSN’s Marty Snider, it was of little consequence to the outcome of the race.

“We mentioned in the debrief that if in turn 14, the blue lights come on, you are to come right away. So I came in. I am sure they had a little buffer, and they knew what exactly was going on. (Race engineer Jonathan Diuguid) said keep going but I couldn’t quite understand him. But at the end of the day it didn’t cost us anything in terms of a win or second place.”

Still, the strong results see Pagenaud and Castroneves sit second and third in the championship, while Newgarden and Power sit fifth and sixth, respectively.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

F1 Paddock Pass: Azerbaijan Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of the crazier, most eventful Formula 1 races in recent memory took place at the Baku City Circuit today in Azerbajian.

That makes it a challenge to recap but it’s something NBCSN F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton, along with producer Jason Swales, attempt to do in the latest post-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, Paddock Pass.

You can see it below. Thursday’s pre-race edition is linked here. A full roundup of Sunday videos from Baku is linked here.

 

Bottas gives everything in Baku fightback from a lap down to P2

1 Comment

Valtteri Bottas says he “gave it absolutely everything” after falling a lap down and running last early on in Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Baku before fighting back to finish second for Mercedes.

Bottas qualified second for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, but dropped back after contact with Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 2 on the opening lap, sustaining a puncture.

Bottas fell a lap down on the field immediately, but was waved past and able to get back onto the lead lap during the first safety car period.

From there, Bottas produced a stunning fightback, dodging the minefield of incidents through the race to eventually cross the line second after a drag race to the checkered flag with Williams’ Lance Stroll.

“Today was a crazy race, especially for me. I had a puncture on the first lap after the contact with Kimi on Lap 1,” Bottas said.

“I was a lap down, then had to overtake the field under the Safety Car. The second Safety Car after that really helped me out and, step by step, I moved forward from there.

“My main goal today was to fight for the win but that went out of the window after the first lap. I was actually last at one point, but I got my head down, gave it absolutely everything and tried to get the absolute maximum out of every single corner.

“We didn’t quite manage to win but P2 from where we were is a great feeling. Importantly for the team, we scored more points in the fight with Ferrari and I got some good points for myself as well.”

Bottas ultimately finished as Mercedes’ lead driver following Lewis Hamilton’s second pit stop when his headrest came loose, resigning the Briton to fifth place at the checkered flag.

F1: Azerbaijan Grand Prix race videos on NBCSN (VIDEO)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Videos from today’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit from NBCSN are linked below.

Daniel Ricciardo won a chaotic, crazy, bizarre race for his first victory of the season.

With a mix of post-race interviews and in-race highlights, there was a lot to digest. The post-race edition of Paddock Pass will also attempt to recap it all.

POST-RACE INTERVIEWS/FEATURES

Lewis Hamilton

Sebastian Vettel

Sergio Perez

Lance Stroll’s podium “shoey” with Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo’s “shoey” tradition

IN-RACE HIGHLIGHTS

Bottas, Raikkonen tag each other at start of race

Verstappen tries to force Perez into errors at Azerbaijan GP

Verstappen forced to retire in Azerbaijan GP

Fernando Alonso calls for a red flag due to debris

Vettel hits Hamilton in crazy restart

Repercussions possible for Vettel and Hamilton after contact

Ricciardo slings his way to third

Sebastian Vettel relinquishes lead due to penalty

Ricciardo drives to victory, Bottas steals second at the flag