Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch has been given the go-ahead from his new team-boss, Chip Ganassi, for a potential return to the Indianapolis 500 in the future.
Busch, the newly confirmed signing to the #1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro for the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series will have the options available to him to race in other events for the team, including the Indy 500 and other events such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
It was announced on Tuesday that Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion, would be departing Stewart-Haas Racing to race for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2019 season.
After this announcement, a national teleconference was held between Chip Ganassi and the media, with one question to Chip asking whether it was possible that Kurt could make appearances in the other championships that Ganassi take part in away from NASCAR. The team also take part in the IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the GTLM class.
Ganassi responded very favourably toward the idea of Kurt racing for him in other championships in the future, stating that events such as the Indy 500 were “on the table.”
“I think and in my conversations with Kurt, all that stuff is available,” Ganassi said in the teleconference, “All our cars are available to all of our drivers. I think it’s just a matter of if the opportunity presents itself, and there is obviously a lot more than just me saying, ‘Hey, let’s do it’ and him saying, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’
“I am game. For the two of us to decide is somewhat on a bit of an island when it comes to those types of things. The important point is those things are available for conversations and that is one of the things I think we … and again it’s not often you have a guy that has the experience to do that like an Indy in an IndyCar. It’s certainly on the table if need be.”
Busch’s experience in the Indy 500 comes from when he first entered the event back in 2014. Busch took part in both the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day, with Busch partnering with Andretti Autosport for the race at Indianapolis in a one-off appearance.
Driving the #26 Suretone Honda for Andretti, Busch qualified in a very respectable twelfth place for the race and went on to advance toward the front to finish in a strong sixth place. It was a great Indy 500 debut for Busch, with the race going much better than his NASCAR race later on in the day; where he would sadly be forced to retire after his #41 Chevrolet SS developed a mechanical fault.
Kurt has not returned to the Indianapolis 500 since his first attempt, but he has made no secret of the fact that he would be interested in making another run at the historic event. Speaking at a media event in Las Vegas in 2016, Busch said that his sixth place finish in 2014 had made him more determined to return to the race and to try and finish even higher:
“By running well and finishing well, it did two things,” Busch said at the time, “It told my mind you’ve accomplished something pretty special, and that should be it. We got all that done; now, let’s capitalize. It’s like going to college, and now three years into it, let’s go finish this; let’s go give it our best effort, give it another run.”
Being given the go-ahead to return to Indianapolis by his new team-boss Chip Ganassi may be the first major step toward Busch getting back behind the wheel of an IndyCar. Kurt has recently spoken about how he felt that he needed to give NASCAR one-hundred percent of his attention, but if his new team-boss is happy for him to pursue these extra-curricular activities, the possibility may now be much higher.
With, realistically, a short amount of time to piece together a deal, it is unlikely that we will see Busch on the grid for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 in May. However, there is still a slim chance for a team as big as Chip Ganassi Racing to pull together the resources to field an extra car in the race. If not, look for Busch to be on the grid from 2020 or later.
The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will be the sixth race of the 2019 IndyCar Series and will take place on Sunday, May 26.