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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.

 

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).