More possible suitors for a Kurt Busch Indy 500 run?

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It’s already becoming the “will he, won’t he” saga of the run up to this year’s Indianapolis 500. “It” is Kurt Busch’s participation.

The “will he” part is, as it was a couple weeks ago, still hovering at the 70 percent mark. He expanded on this at NASCAR Media Day in Daytona on Thursday, and said there were more potential teams in the frame than Andretti Autosport, with whom he completed Rookie Orientation in 2013.

“My forecast hasn’t changed from the other week when I said I was 70 percent sure that I would run the Indy 500 this year,” Busch said, via the Indianapolis Motor Speedway website. “I’m still confident in that forecast. If I were a weatherman, I’d say bring an umbrella.”

The new teams identified are Chip Ganassi Racing, KV Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, which all carry one thing in common: the Chevrolet bow-tie.

Ganassi already has a four-car lineup but with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship off between May 4 and May 31, it could have its sports car crew available to run a fifth car at the Speedway.

KV team co-owner Jimmy Vasser said earlier this week it would prefer to run a veteran driver in its third car for the ‘500, a car which is very likely to materialize.

“We probably wouldn’t consider a rookie,” Vasser said, leaving the door slightly ajar. “A guy or girl needs to be able to add to the program at Indianapolis. We don’t need to be dragging anything down. We need somebody that can lend a hand and be able to be a protagonist in the race.”

Carpenter’s team, since being founded ahead of the 2012 season, has never run a second car. It will have two drivers this year as Ed Carpenter (ovals) and Mike Conway (road/street courses) share the seat of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka entry.

Andretti’s squad, which had run Chevrolets the last two years, has shifted to Honda power in 2014.

Busch stays with Chevrolet in his new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, after he moves over from Furniture Row Racing.

The manufacturer divide may be the stumbling block that prevents Busch’s participation. Or, alternatively, it could be something both sides work through, which would be for the benefit of all parties. Only time will tell.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.