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Busch’s historic Indy chase includes hope for 500-600 double

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis is quickly becoming Kyle Busch’s favorite racing venue.

Ten years ago, he met his future wife, Samantha, at the 2.5-mile oval.

Last year, he pulled off a rare sweep by winning both poles and both races on Brickyard 400 weekend. It’s the last time Busch celebrated a Cup win and now that he’s back at the historic 2.5-mile oval, he doesn’t want to wait until next September to make a return trip. He’d like to add a May stop to his already full 2018 schedule ad attempt the fabled double bill of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

“I had it (a deal) done last year, sold it and everything,” Busch said when asked about competing in the Indy 500. “I had a boss that said no.”

Busch, the 2015 Cup champion and two-time defending Brickyard champ, hasn’t given up on his dream; he’s just putting it on hold temporarily this weekend as he chases history and tries to end a 12-month victory drought.

He couldn’t have picked a better place to come. Over the past two years, Busch has been the most dominant stock-car driver at Indy.

The two-time defending Brickyard champion has led 168 of the last 189 laps here, including a record 149 out of 170 last year when he won from the pole. He also won the 2015 and 2016 Xfinity Series races from the pole, giving him four consecutive wins at Indianapolis.

When the track opened for Xfinity practice Friday, Busch’s car was near the top again – even with restrictor-plate motors.

Busch still had the third-fastest car in the first two practice sessions, turning a fast lap of 166.162 mph as overcast skies cooled the track. The Xfinity qualifications and race will be held Saturday, the same day Busch and the other Cup drivers also will take their first laps.

Even as Busch talks about winning an unprecedented third straight Brickyard, the thrill of taking a shot in IndyCar’s marquee race – and trying the 1,100-mile Memorial Day weekend double – remains a major attraction for the 32-year-old driver.

“I thought I had a great opportunity to do it (in May), but I’m kind of glad it didn’t come together because (Fernando) Alonso kind of stole the headlines the last time it was done,” Busch said. “It would be fun. It would be a unique opportunity. The thing that scares my boss is that I’ve never driven those cars.”

If he goes for it, Busch would start the day in Indianapolis for the 500 then fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the 600-mile Cup race. His brother, Kurt Busch, tried that in 2014 and finished sixth at the Indy 500 before a blown engine knocked him out of the NASCAR nightcap.

It would be the first time brothers have attempted the marathon.

Alonso had never driven an IndyCar or even on an oval before May. Yet the two-time Formula One champ spent most of May’s race in contention before a blown engine knocked him out with 20 laps to go.

Busch thinks his experience – and success – at the Brickyard would make him just as competitive.

In 12 Indy starts, Busch has 10 top-10 finishes. He is one of four Cup drivers with at least two Brickyard titles and last year joined seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson as the only back-to-back race winners. Johnson won in 2008 and 2009.

Somehow Busch has fought through the sweltering mid-summer temperatures and found the secret to winning on this narrow, low-banked oval where passing is tough.

Busch’s success puts him in rare company.

The only driver in track history to win four straight races at Indy is Michael Schumacher, the former Formula One superstar who won each U.S. Grand Prix from 2003-06 on the speedway’s road course. Nobody else has captured three consecutive major race titles at Indy, and if Busch extends his winning streak to five on Saturday, it would break Schumacher’s record.

A win Sunday would also give Toyota its 100th Cup victory, assure Busch of a spot in NASCAR’s playoff and give Joe Gibbs Racing its second win in two weeks after starting the season 0 for 17.

“It’s pretty cool to come in here and have a chance to go for three in a row,” Busch said. “But it’s frustrating that it’s been 365 days since we’ve won one of these things.”

And he would rather not have to wait even longer to give Indy a shot next season.

“I’m good,” he said when asked if he’d trade his Brickyard wins for an Indy 500 crown. “I’d just like to have a shot to go and earn it myself.”

Scott Dixon makes young IndyCar fan’s day (VIDEO)

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After his significant accident in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Scott Dixon was almost more frustrated with the fact his Chip Ganassi Racing team would have to build up a new chassis to replace his one that flew several hundred feet after catapulting over Jay Howard.

But a young fan named Lucy put the accident into its proper perspective, as was discovered by Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query in IndyCar’s fan mail.

Query got together with the IndyCar PR team and Dixon to eventually make Lucy’s dream come true, as she got to meet her favorite driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The full story from IndyCar.com is linked here; the full video is linked here.

This was highlighted during Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA show on NBCSN, which you can see above. You can see Verizon IndyCar Series’ KOHLER Grand Prix coverage from Road America live, Sunday on NBCSN at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Sato returns to hero’s welcome in Japan post-Indy win (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

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Between the Verizon IndyCar Series’ races at Texas Motor Speedway and this weekend at Road America (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Takuma Sato finally had the opportunity to visit his home country of Japan to celebrate his win in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. His win was popular in the IndyCar paddock and even more popular in his home country.

IndyCar produced a video of Sato’s media tour above, with some photos below (All Photos courtesy Hiro Matsumoto/IndyCar).

Alonso calls into Texas from Canada; says of IndyCar, ‘why not?’ (VIDEO)

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Fernando Alonso was the star attraction of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, despite failing to finish owing to an engine failure in the back of his No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry while running in the top-10.

Alonso was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year for his efforts, although he only finished 24th, and Ed Jones finished third for Dale Coyne Racing.

During tonight’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway, Alonso called into the NBCSN broadcast to speak with the booth of Kevin Lee, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Asked by Lee about his future – both Alonso’s and Honda’s futures with McLaren are murky at best at the moment – Alonso didn’t say no when asked if he would consider IndyCar full-time.

“Why not? I’m very open to anything. I don’t have a pure answer right now,” Alonso said.

You can see Canadian Grand Prix coverage from 2 p.m. ET on NBC on Sunday.

No break for Dixon to let left foot heal since Indy crash

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Scott Dixon had a numb feeling in his injured left foot after all the bumps and braking that come with two races on a street course.

Ideally, Dixon could have used a week or two off after a horrific crash at the Indianapolis 500 to let his foot heal. Instead, it was straight to Detroit the following weekend for IndyCar’s only doubleheader, and now Texas Motor Speedway for a race Saturday night before leaving for the 24-hour race at Le Mans.

“But it’s going to be OK,” Dixon said. “It’s just going to four or five weeks before it’s back to normal. … It should gradually get better anyway. By Le Mans, I should be feeling more comfortable.”

The repaved 1 1/2-mile oval in Texas should provide some relief for Dixon in the No. 9 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. The already fast track where Dixon has won twice, and tested at more than 220 mph driving a teammate’s car in April, is smoother now. And there never is much need for braking when in race mode.

“Hopefully not,” he said. “That’s the goal.”

Even without winning a race this year, Dixon is the series points leader at the midpoint of the IndyCar season. He has been the runner-up three times this year, including the first race at Detroit, and has finished in the top six in every race except the 500 after his car flew over the car of Jay Howard and landed atop the inside safety fence. The car was shredded, but the tub of the car remained intact and Dixon was not seriously hurt.

A reporter for IndyCar’s radio network this week (Jake Query -Ed.) shared on Twitter the copy of a handwritten note from a 2nd-grade girl thanking the Indy Car Series for how it responded to keep Dixon safe after the crash.

In the note addressed to IndyCar and signed by Lucy, the girl said she got scared and started crying when she saw the crash. When she saw Dixon limping on TV, she wanted to make sure he was OK, and wrote, “Again, Thank You So Much for Keeping Him Safe!!!”

The father of two young daughters, Dixon responded on Twitter thanking the girl for her “sweet letter”, while telling her he was “doing really well” and hoped to get the chance to meet her one day.

That crash came a week after Dixon and friend Dario Franchitti were robbed at gunpoint while waiting in the drive-thru lane at a Taco Bell, only a mile from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the 36-year-old New Zealander had the best qualifying run in 21 years at Indy.

“It’s definitely been an interesting season,” Dixon said. “That’s life, you have these crazy ups and down, and that’s what makes it interesting.”

When defending Texas winner Graham Rahal swept the two Detroit races last weekend, he became the first driver this season with multiple victories. Dixon would like to make it eight winners in nine races, and feels like he is close to another win.

“Yeah, I hope so. I think we need a little bit of luck come our way,” Dixon said. “We’ve definitely had some interesting moments where it could have gone the other way and it didn’t. … You’ve got to get everything right, especially with the depth of the field and the competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series now.”

More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org