The best case for a Busch Indy 500 run? A Haas Memorial Day triple

Getty Images
1 Comment

In 2014, Kurt Busch made waves – and headlines – for running the most recent attempt at “the double” between the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600.

In 2016, Busch could be the single link that makes “the triple” possible, if his schedule allows.

“The triple” can’t be accomplished by one driver, given the logistics of getting from Monaco, to Indianapolis, and then to Charlotte.

But “the triple” could be accomplished by one sponsor, which already has tentacles and teams established in two of the three and would only need the “Indianapolis as peanut butter” element to complete the other two slices of the sandwich.

Bottom line, Haas Automation has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be present in all three place of racing’s biggest weekend of the year, Memorial Day weekend, and a historical weekend at that.

Haas F1 Team’s going to be making its Monaco Grand Prix bow, with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez present behind the wheel of the two Dallara chassis with Ferrari engines. Figure that’s going to be its biggest and most incredible Grand Prix to date, in its first few races of the season.

Haas, then, will have its usual end-of-weekend outing at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600. It’s a race that, surprisingly, has eluded Stewart-Haas Racing even though one of its drivers and past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Kevin Harvick, is a past winner. But the team’s never won the event; Harvick, Busch and Danica Patrick will hope to do so this year, as would whoever is in the team’s No. 14 car – unlikely but possible to be team co-owner Tony Stewart if he’s recovered, or whoever his injury fill-in may be.

In the middle stands Indianapolis, and not just any Indianapolis 500, but the 100th edition – a race that is almost something of a make-or-break for the Verizon IndyCar Series on both a national and international scale to raise awareness beyond its central Indiana base.

The Indianapolis 500 will need some sort of historical lineage to tie in its past and promote its future, because while the series itself is great on a week-to-week basis and has better stories within its 20-plus car field than you realize, it doesn’t have the same frequency of Formula 1 or NASCAR drivers – or teams – moonlighting in the event anymore.

This is a race that 50 years ago had a Formula 1 World Champion – the late Graham Hill – win the race. The prospect of F1 drivers competing today is limited to those who have been in F1 in the recent past. Max Chilton will be the newest example and with no disrespect to Chilton, who’s an affable, likable and talented enough young Brit who could surprise people this year, he’s no Graham Hill.

What better way for the Indianapolis 500 to stretch its borders and provide an international storyline than seeing Gene Haas’ name and brand stretched from Monaco to Charlotte, through Indianapolis?

It’s realistic because Haas is a smart enough individual to understand the magnitude of what he gets into.

The magnitude of a “Haas Triple Crown” is something that’s sellable not just for Haas Automation as an entity, but also for any sponsors who would theoretically want to leverage their brand across three of racing’s greatest races.

Where Busch fits into the equation is pretty simple. He’s the only NASCAR driver, outside of AJ Allmendinger, with recent IndyCar experience. He’d need to participate in a refresher test – likely to coincide with the Rookie Orientation Program – but wouldn’t need too much time to get back up to speed.

Of course, he’d also need a team landing spot, and that’s where you have to figure Haas wouldn’t back something that doesn’t have a realistic chance of winning.

Since the introduction of the Dallara DW12 base chassis in 2012, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, KVSH Racing, Andretti Autosport and Team Penske have been the four teams to win the Indianapolis 500.

Busch and Penske won’t happen as Penske’s inn is booked at four cars, and there’s the past history there that doesn’t need to be rehashed.

Theoretically, Busch could reunite with Andretti for what would be either a fourth or fifth car, but Honda’s number of engine leases might be closer to its projected number of 17 once all its extras are added than Chevrolet’s (there could be more Chevrolet leases available).

There’d also be the same, not impossible, but still hurdle of a Chevrolet driver in NASCAR running a Honda in IndyCar – and if Haas were to be the one footing the bill, it’s less likely he’d be as amenable to the option.

So when you get to the remaining Chevrolet teams, it leaves just four options: Ganassi, KVSH, Ed Carpenter Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Ganassi, of those four, would provide Busch the best shot at a win and has experience running five cars, as it has recently.

That’s not to say it will again in 2016, but it could based on past history.

The fifth Ganassi car, each of the last two years, has been part of a technical alliance with another team – Sage Karam was a primarily DRR entry in 2014 but with some Ganassi assistance, while last year’s fifth car for Sebastian Saavedra was primarily Ganassi in partnership with AFS Racing.

Where the fifth Ganassi option fades, potentially, is if the team’s resources are stretched too thin in May. The Chip Ganassi Rallycross effort kicks off on qualifying weekend, May 21 and 22, in Phoenix. Additionally, the team’s two U.S.-based Ford GTs would be in transit to Le Mans ahead of the Le Mans Test Day, which occurs the Sunday of Detroit, June 5. Crews are separate but there’s usually crossover of crews between some of the Ganassi programs – notably IndyCar staffers working on sports cars at the Rolex 24 at Daytona – and such a situation would likely be needed here for an extra car.

KVSH has already announced an extra car – the PIRTEK Team Murray car for Matthew Brabham. Ed Carpenter at IndyCar Media Day said ECR would likely only be two for the Indianapolis 500 (but it could, in theory, add a third as the CFH Racing team did last year) and DRR is Indy-only for Karam again, although a second car is possible.

The bottom line, of course, is that if Haas sees the upside and the opportunity at his – and Haas Automation’s – disposal for this incredible chance, he’s got a driver and a shot to pull off a rare event in motorsports history.

The question now is whether Busch can fit it into his schedule once again, and if there’s a team that can find a way to land a helluva driver and his NASCAR team boss.

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

How to Watch Seattle Supercross
Dylan Ferrandis may return before SX finale
SMX develops “Leader Lights”
Power Rankings after Detroit
Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan
Results and points after Detroit
Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points