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NASCAR’s Busch, Allmendinger split on Indy 500 return

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The two most recent drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to have crossed over to the Indianapolis 500 are at odds over whether they’ll race it again.

Kurt Busch hasn’t said no to a 2016 Indy 500 appearance, while AJ Allmendinger definitively has on Tuesday during NASCAR’s Daytona 500 Media Day.

Busch, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, finished sixth in the first leg of what was supposed to be an 1,100-mile double between Indianapolis and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte.

He said he’ll know more by March, once NASCAR heads West to Phoenix, Las Vegas and Auto Club Speedway, whether he’ll be making an encore appearance.

“We’re at Daytona and we’re all focused on Daytona,” Busch told reporters during Daytona 500 Media Day in Daytona.

“I think once we get through Atlanta and that ‘NASCAR Goes West’ tour, that will give a better indication on if I’m going to run Indy this year.”

Busch ran the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport in 2014.

Andretti traditionally adds at least one car to its Indianapolis 500 roster and Busch was the fifth car for the team that year, along with Andretti’s then-full season quartet of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

It was a rare occasion where although Busch drives a Chevrolet in Sprint Cup for Stewart-Haas Racing, he drove a Honda for Andretti at the Indianapolis 500.

Allmendinger returned to open-wheel in 2013 with Team Penske after a seven-year hiatus, and led laps and finished seventh in the Indianapolis 500.

But he said Tuesday he is categorically against any return to open-wheel until the cars adopt some sort of closed cockpit protection, canopy or otherwise.

Asked whether he’d want to race to race the ‘500 again, Allmendinger told assembled reporters, “No. The moment Justin Wilson passed away is the moment I said, never again.

“The only way I’d do it is if they put a closed cockpit over the car, and tested it, and thought that was a good direction for safety. But, no.”

Further comments from Allmendinger are linked here, via Motorsport.com.

Wilson, 37, was killed last August at Pocono Raceway during IndyCar’s most recent 500-mile race. He was IndyCar’s first fatality since Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas in October, 2011.

 

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).