Kurt Busch OK after hard practice crash at Indy (UPDATED)


UPDATE (6:44 p.m. ET): Andretti Autosport has confirmed that Kurt Busch will drive Marco Andretti’s backup car in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 after his heavy crash in practice this afternoon.

Busch’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda can be fixed after its run-in with the Turn 2 wall, but the repairs will not be completed in time for Race Day.

However, Busch will be able to retain his starting position of 12th under Indy 500 rule Number (as conveniently tweeted out by INDYCAR director of communications Mike Kitchel):

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET today, the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion lost the back end of the No. 26 car in Turn 2, appeared to try and correct it, and then went hard into the outside wall.

Busch’s car caught on fire as he spun to the inside after impact, but the fire would go out and Busch was able to climb from the car when it came to rest on the backstretch.

Shortly after the crash, his girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, tweeted that Busch was fine. INDYCAR later confirmed that he had been checked and released from the infield care center.

At that point, Busch had been 13th-fastest in today’s practice with a lap at 225.623 miles per hour. He had run at 223.433 mph on his previous lap prior to the crash.

“I was just out there in race trim finding different tows and drafting with guys – just started to settle in and get comfortable,” Busch said over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway public address system.

“And it felt like, maybe I let my guard down and didn’t keep track of the adjustments in the car. [I was] just trying to find that rhythm and pace myself as I would on Sunday, and I just got behind on the adjustments in the car.”

Busch added that he was glad that such an incident took place now early in the week.

“The car’s probably gonna have – need – an extensive rebuild,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll get back out today. We do have Carb Day to shake things down, get back on our horse, and give this thing a try again.”

Busch qualified 12th yesterday for the ‘500’, which is the first part of his challenge to run both that race and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”