‘Rookie’ Kurt Busch, 1995 champ Jacques Villeneuve, three more to undergo Indy 500 orientation/refresher

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It’s been 14 years since Kurt Busch was last called a rookie.

And even though Busch has a Sprint Cup championship trophy at home, he’s still a rookie open-wheel driver as far as the Indianapolis 500 is concerned.

That’s why Busch and four other drivers will take part in the rookie orientation or veteran driver refresher course to be eligible to compete in the May 25th Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the track announced Tuesday.

Busch will join four other drivers – Mikhail Aleshin, Martin Plowman, Jack Hawksworth and 1995 Indy 500 winner and former CART and F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve – for the three-pronged orientation and driving program on Tuesday, April 29th and Monday, May 5th (let’s hope the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, May 4 at Talladega doesn’t get postponed by rain).

Villeneuve will only have to complete the final two phases of the three-phase program to be recertified to race in the 500 because of his prior experience there.

Hard as it may seem to believe, this will be only the third time Villeneuve has competed at Indy – it seems like more – and the first time in nearly 20 years.

But his record to date there has been nothing short of stellar.

After finishing second in the 1994 Indy 500, he came back in 1995 to win the event, which also helped propel him to win that season’s CART championship, as well.

Villeneuve competed just those two seasons in CART and then went to Formula one for 11 years, where he won 11 races and the 1997 championship (winning seven races in that year alone).

The orientation/refresher is designed that all five drivers can potentially complete all three phases in one day. If they are able to do so, the second day would be for practice – or if they need more instruction.

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F1: Red Bull Racing confirms switch to Honda engines next season

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Honda will become Red Bull’s engine supplier from next season after the Formula One team confirmed its anticipated split with Renault on Tuesday.

The Japanese manufacturer will supply engines for 2019 and 2020, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner hailed the deal as “an exciting new phase” in the bid to return to the top of F1.

“After careful consideration and evaluation, we are certain this partnership with Honda is the right direction for the team,” Horner said in a team statement. “We have been impressed by Honda’s commitment to F1, by the rapid steps they have made in recent times with our (feeder) team Toro Rosso.”

It is a boost for Honda, which was unceremoniously dumped by McLaren at the end of last year.

Honda has started this season brightly as engine provider for Toro Rosso, and this may have been a key factor in Red Bull finally ditching Renault.

“Honda’s alignment with both Red Bull Formula One teams provides enormous potential,” Horner said. “Honda will have access to a wealth of data from both outfits, with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing leading the way, and the opportunities for faster, more effective and more competitive development are doubled.”

The deal brings to an end Red Bull’s 12-year partnership with Renault.

Although relations became increasingly strained between the two parties in recent years, it was once a dream partnership as Red Bull and Renault won four straight drivers’ and constructors’ championships with Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel from 2010-13.

During that glory era, Vettel and teammate Mark Webber won 47 grand prix. Since 2013, results have somewhat dried up and there have been only 10 race wins.

“We have sometimes had our differences but Renault has always worked tirelessly and to the best of its ability to provide us with a competitive power unit,” Horner said.

He was not always quite so complimentary about Renault. He has regularly and publicly criticized Renault’s reliability in recent years – although it has been hard to judge sometimes.

Red Bull showed good speed toward the end of last season when Max Verstappen won two races, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo won this season’s Chinese GP with a brilliant drive. The difference in speed between Red Bull and Mercedes appears less than before, although Ferrari remains noticeably quicker.

Verstappen’s form has picked up after a poor start to 2018, marred by crashes, and he has taken third place in two of the past three races.

Meanwhile, McLaren’s partnership with Renault has not been as successful as they anticipated after dropping Honda following three fruitless seasons together.

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso has failed to finish the past two races and has yet to place higher than fifth. Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg has a best finish of fourth place.