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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne