Edwards: Kenseth’s loss at Roush is heavily felt

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Carl Edwards isn’t the least bit surprised that his former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth has put himself in contention to win his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

“I’m not surprised by (his success), and that’s because I’ve seen how much Matt pours into his driving, and over the years I’ve seen how fierce of a competitor he is,” Edwards said in a media teleconference Tuesday. “I mean, he’s a relatively quiet guy, and he’s pretty understated, but man, he really, really drives the wheels off a race car from the start of the race weekend until the checkered flag falls.”

Edwards and Greg Biffle have been RFR’s “lead dogs” this year but neither has been able to mount a serious challenge in this year’s Chase. Biffle earned some headlines this week for his coming-together with Johnson and a post-race argument they had on pit road; Biffle, however, clarified what happened yesterday in a separate teleconference.

But there’s no denying the impact that Kenseth’s loss to Joe Gibbs Racing has had for RFR. All due respect to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but as a rookie, he’s simply not going to be able to provide the same setup feedback or help push a team forward in its first year.

“I think that we were as good of teammates as I’ve ever had,” Edwards said. “I think a lot of Matt, and I think he was a huge asset to our team.

“It is interesting to watch him in this championship battle, and there are times where I still feel like – it’s hard for me to think of him as not my teammate because of how much time we spent under the same roof. So yeah, to me, as much as I hate to see him do well at another organization – I wish he was doing it here – I think it’s good to see him have the success because he definitely works hard and has given his life to racing.”

Edwards added that while Johnson may beat Kenseth to the title – the pair are tied in points heading into Texas this weekend – Kenseth won’t find a way to lose it.

“I can tell you one thing: Matt won’t make mistakes. He will not lose the championship.  He’ll be one of the strongest parts of that team in my opinion.”

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”