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Kurt Busch rules out Indianapolis 500 run for 2016

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The 2014 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, Kurt Busch, has announced Wednesday that he will not be competing in the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Busch wrote this statement on his website:

“After seriously contemplating making another run at “The Double”, and in response to the many questions I receive on the subject as the Month of May approaches, I wanted to state that I will not be participating in this year’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500,” Busch wrote.

“I must say this was not an easy decision and it does not in any way reflect upon my desire to compete again in one of the world’s greatest races; it is based solely on a need to maintain the focus and momentum we have built early in this NASCAR season with our #41 Stewart-Haas Racing, Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevy team – hopefully all the way to Homestead and the championship weekend.

“My experience with Andretti Autosport and its drivers was so very positive and the way in which the IndyCar fans and media welcomed me, it is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my career both personally and professionally. Fortunately, Michael and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have left the door open for a future run, and perhaps one day I will take them up on that, it just won’t be this year.”

In truth, Busch’s options were limited this year anyway, based on the remaining to-be-filled seats.  Theoretically though, Busch was the best option if Haas Automation wanted to have a presence in all three Memorial Day races.

Although Andretti Autosport plans to run a fifth car, Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star reported last month that Busch wouldn’t be in an Andretti car this year.

That being said, Michael Andretti said Busch can “drive for him anytime” at Indianapolis, to which Busch responded, “privilege!”

There was also some talk of Busch staying in Las Vegas to have meetings with Sam Schmidt of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – FOX Sports noted at the Las Vegas NASCAR weekend that Busch bumped into Schmidt. SPM plans to run a third car.

KV Racing Technology also is likely to run a third car but has not announced it.

Busch finished sixth in 2014 in the first leg of a planned 1,100-mile day at both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600, but engine woes sidelined him at Charlotte.

Incidentally, Kyle Busch raised the idea he might be interested in racing the Indianapolis 500 now that he has won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. But given the available number of seats and whether he’d get permission from Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing to do it, it seems a long shot at the moment.

IndyCar’s revised schedule gives Tony Kanaan an extra race in 2020

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Tony Kanaan got a bit of good news when the latest revised NTT IndyCar Series schedule was released Monday.

Kanaan’s “Ironman Streak” of 317 consecutive starts would have concluded with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15. That race was postponed, and the races that followed have been canceled or rescheduled later in the year. The season tentatively is scheduled to start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the reason for the tentative nature of this year’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, started the season with a limited schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevrolet. That schedule included all five oval races, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.

A silver lining for Kanaan is that this year’s trip to Iowa Speedway will be a doubleheader, instead of a single oval contest. His schedule has grown from five to six races for 2020, should the season start on time with the June 6 contest at Texas Motor Speedway and the additional race at Iowa.

“I’m really happy that IndyCar has been very proactive about the schedule and keeping us posted with the plans,” Kanaan told NBCSports.com Tuesday afternoon from his home in Indianapolis. “I’m double happy that now with Iowa being a doubleheader, I’m doing six races instead of five.”

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Kanaan’s “Last Lap” is something that many fans and competitors in IndyCar want to celebrate. He has been a fierce foe on the track but also a valued friend outside the car to many of his fellow racers.

He also has been quite popular with fans and likely is the most popular Indianapolis 500 driver of his generation.

Scott Dixon was Kanaan’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2013-17. At one time, they were foes but eventually became friends.

“I hope it’s not T.K.’s last 500,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “I was hoping T.K. would get a full season. That has changed. His first race of what was going to his regular season was going to be the 500. Hopefully, that plays out.

“You have to look at T.K. for who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has done for the sport. He has been massive for the Indianapolis 500, for the city of Indianapolis to the whole culture of the sport. He is a legend of the sport.

“We had our differences early in our career and had problems in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 when we were battling for championships. We fought for race wins and championships in the 2000s. I’ve been on both sides, where he was fighting against me in a championship or where he was fighting with me to go for a championship. He is a hell of a competitor; a fantastic person.

“I hope it’s not his last, but if it is, I hope it’s an extremely successful one for him this season.”

Even before Kanaan joined Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon admitted he couldn’t help but be drawn to Kanaan’s personality.

“T.K. is a very likable person,” Dixon said. “You just have to go to dinner with the guy once, and you understand why that is. The ups and downs were a competitive scenario where he was helping you for a win or helping someone else for a win. There was never a dislike or distrust. We always got along very well.

“We are very tight right now and really close. He is a funny-ass dude. He has always been a really good friend for me, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003 when both had come to the old Indy Racing League after beginning their careers in CART, the two drivers were racing hard for the lead at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 13, 2003. They were involved in a hard crash in Turn 2 that left Kanaan broken up with injuries. IRL officials penalized Dixon for “aggressive driving.” Dixon had to sit out the first three days of practice for the next race – the 2003 Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan recovered in time and did not miss any racing. He started second and finished third in that year’s Indy 500.

“We were racing hard and going for the win,” Dixon recalled of the Motegi race. “It was a crucial part of the season. Everybody has to be aggressive. I respect Tony for that. He was not letting up. That is what I always saw with Tony, how hard the guy will push. He will go to the absolute limit, and that is why he was inspiring and why he was a successful driver.

“Those moments are blips. You might not talk to the guy for a week, but then you are back on track. T.K. is very close with our family and we are with his.”

This season, because of highly unusual circumstances, T.K.’s IndyCar career will last for one more race than previously scheduled.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500