A California IndyCar cameo for Kurt Busch is just a dream for 2013

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The possibility of Kurt Busch, 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, making his IZOD IndyCar Series racing debut at the 2013 season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Oct. 19, was erased Thursday during NASCAR’s Chase media advance at Chicago’s Navy Pier.

Busch’s focus, naturally, will be on pulling a relative upset in the Chase with the single-car Furniture Row Racing operation. Rumors of him entering an IndyCar race this year gained steam after he completed his Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s usual No. 1 DHL Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport.

“It’s a situation where we needed to have things closer,” Busch said. “The dates got too far down the road where we needed to notify Chevrolet that we needed an extra engine to get to Fontana. It was very important in the month of May, but it’s not important now in the middle of September.”

Busch wanted to do it as much for preparation and to have a race under his belt prior to a potential rookie appearance in the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

“It’s not eliminating Indianapolis next year,” he said. “I was just hoping to have more of my homework done, gain more experience and get an education.”

He’s hopeful that another test session can materialize sometime if not at Indianapolis, perhaps at Pocono, where he wants to be able to properly “put the (IndyCar) on edge” and extract maximum speed. His initial test in May was to get comfortable with the car and go through the phases of Indy’s Rookie Orientation Program.

Regarding sponsorship, Busch preferred finding one major sponsor to support his efforts over a consortium.

“There’s a certain value that’s tough for people to commit to,” he explained. “It’s why you see so many cars sponsored by five or six different brands. We’re trying to get that one big fish. We’ll go back to the drawing board.”

Busch’s new contract with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2014 does not prevent him from competing in IndyCar. Considering his versatility, having tested an IndyCar, an Australian V8 Supercar and raced an NHRA Pro Stock car besides his NASCAR commitments, he’d be an invaluable addition to the grid at Indianapolis in the future.

IndyCar’s season finale at St. Pete approved to have 20,000 fans

IndyCar St. Pete fans
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ season finale will be permitted up to 20,000 fans, making the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg possibly the circuit’s most well-attended race of 2020. The race originally was scheduled as the season opener before being moved to Oct. 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has enjoyed limited crowds at Road America, Iowa Speedway, Gateway, Mid-Ohio and this weekend’s doubleheader races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which could have up to 10,000 fans in attendance. That had been the largest maximum grandstand crowd for an IndyCar race this season.

At a St. Petersburg city council meeting Thursday, Mayor Rick Kriseman approved plans by race organizers Green Savoree Racing Promotions to hold the Oct. 23-25 weekend for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete with 20,000 fans who would follow health and safety protocols that include mandatory temperature checks and masks.

 “My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and IndyCar for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time,” Kriseman said in a release. “I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete. I can’t wait for Oct. 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Paddock and the pit lane will remain closed to spectators, and social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed on site.

“Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Promotions. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Promotions. “We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”