Kurt Busch OK after hard practice crash at Indy (UPDATED)

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UPDATE (6:44 p.m. ET): Andretti Autosport has confirmed that Kurt Busch will drive Marco Andretti’s backup car in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 after his heavy crash in practice this afternoon.

Busch’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda can be fixed after its run-in with the Turn 2 wall, but the repairs will not be completed in time for Race Day.

However, Busch will be able to retain his starting position of 12th under Indy 500 rule Number 8.4.3.9 (as conveniently tweeted out by INDYCAR director of communications Mike Kitchel):

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET today, the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion lost the back end of the No. 26 car in Turn 2, appeared to try and correct it, and then went hard into the outside wall.

Busch’s car caught on fire as he spun to the inside after impact, but the fire would go out and Busch was able to climb from the car when it came to rest on the backstretch.

Shortly after the crash, his girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, tweeted that Busch was fine. INDYCAR later confirmed that he had been checked and released from the infield care center.

At that point, Busch had been 13th-fastest in today’s practice with a lap at 225.623 miles per hour. He had run at 223.433 mph on his previous lap prior to the crash.

“I was just out there in race trim finding different tows and drafting with guys – just started to settle in and get comfortable,” Busch said over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway public address system.

“And it felt like, maybe I let my guard down and didn’t keep track of the adjustments in the car. [I was] just trying to find that rhythm and pace myself as I would on Sunday, and I just got behind on the adjustments in the car.”

Busch added that he was glad that such an incident took place now early in the week.

“The car’s probably gonna have – need – an extensive rebuild,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll get back out today. We do have Carb Day to shake things down, get back on our horse, and give this thing a try again.”

Busch qualified 12th yesterday for the ‘500’, which is the first part of his challenge to run both that race and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.