Count Danica Patrick out of Indy 500 — but not Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Even though new Stewart Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch hopes to realize his lifelong dream to race in the Indianapolis 500 this May – and then double up by competing later the same day in NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte — count Danica Patrick out of doing the same.

“I love the Indy 500, it’s an amazing event and everybody should go see it at some time,” Patrick said during Monday’s opening of the 32nd NASCAR Media Tour. “But as far as me as a driver, I’m not seeking it out anymore.”

Patrick competed in the 500 seven times in her previous IndyCar career, with a career-best finish of third in 2009. Her last 500 was 2011, when she finished 10th.

She considered attempting to do the fabled “double” last year, but efforts fell short due to logistics, not to mention she was trying to keep her focus solely on her first full season on the Sprint Cup circuit.

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t take the opportunity if I felt like I was in a position to win a race, but after last year when it didn’t work out, I’m no longer trying to make that happen,” she said.

Busch was looking like a kid in a candy store, talking about racing in this year’s 500, during Monday’s NASCAR session.

“It’s grabbing traction again,” Busch said. “It’s through two teams (one being Andretti Autosport and a second unnamed team), through a couple different sponsors, and the intrigue is there for me for something to tackle in life. On the business side, it needs to make sense there, but I’m starting to push the business sense aside and just go and do it and have the fun and to say I ran Indianapolis. It’s grabbing traction and I have the blessing of Gene Haas and Tony Stewart to go and do it.”

Busch, who has also dabbled in drag racing in recent years during time away from Sprint Cup, is feeling optimistic that he’ll be part of this year’s 500 field.

“It’s about 70-30 right now, 70 percent that we’re going to do it” Busch said. “We just have to balance all the things that have to come with it, schedule, sponsorship, the teams. My commitment is there, we don’t have to second-guess that. But I’m going to have to train harder if I’m going to be ready for 1,100 miles in one day.”

Busch may not be the only NASCAR driver at Indianapolis. AJ Allmendinger, back on the Sprint Cup circuit on a full-time basis in 2014 with his new team, JTG Daugherty Racing, is also looking at possibly doing the Memorial Day double.

“There’s always a chance, but it would have to be the right situation,” said Allmendinger, who started fifth and finished seventh racing for Roger Penske in last year’s Indy 500, but did not compete in the 600 later that day. “Obviously, doing it with Roger would be the right situation.

“I’m not a guy that wants to do it just to do it, to say I’ve tried both. I think it’s based first on how this season is going – obviously this is my biggest priority. Tad’s (team owner Tad Geschickter) all for it. When Roger brought the idea up to him initially when we did this deal, Tad was all for it. He said we’d sell a lot of charcoal products on that weekend (one of Allmendinger’s chief sponsors with JTG Daugherty is Kingsford Charcoal).

“I would love to do it. I don’t know with the third car, with Juan (Pablo Montoya) there now, is a possibility. But if it’s the right situation, I’d definitely be interested.”

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).