When Busch met with reporters shortly after announcing his move to Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series next year, he touched on a point that was once a hot topic. Doing the traditional “double” has always been on Kyle’s bucket list. He may be closer now than ever, but why hasn’t it happened already?
Kyle had struck a deal to drive for Roger Penske at the 2017 Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but his boss Joe Gibbs put cold water on the fire. When the 2020 Indy 500 was pushed back to August due to the pandemic, he attempted to strike another deal as it wouldn’t affect his cup commitments, but it never came to fruition.
Now that the door is wide open, Busch is ready to talk about it. “I made sure that was in the deal,” he said of running the race. “Definitely call me all the IndyCar teams that are Chevrolet.”
With Kyle no longer barred from attending the Legendary Event, which team would be the best fit for his service? When his brother Kurt drove the 500 in 2014, he was driving for Andretti Autosport, but they are a Honda-powered team.
The first choice seems to be Penske, but despite Roger Penske’s monumental success (18 Indy 500 wins) at IMS, the team has struggled a bit in recent years.
The team ran four cars in the 2020 race but only managed one top ten finish. They had the same result in 2021 and struggled again in qualifying when Will Power almost got bumped and started on the last row. Last year, none of their three drivers qualified in the top ten, finishing 13th, 15th and 29th respectively.
Power won his second IndyCar title with Penske earlier this month and says he would welcome Busch to the team. “It would be great if Kyle drove the Indy 500. I think it’s good for the series and it would just be interesting to see him in a car like that. His brother did really well, so I would expect him to be just as good.” Kurt finished sixth in that race and received Rookie of the Year honors.
Penske has reduced its lineup to three full-time cars this year, resulting in a 1-2-4 championship finish. All three drivers won races and collectively won nine of the 17 laps. Adding a fourth car while managing his new sports car program is something Roger is likely to want to avoid, especially with their recent struggles at his home track.
Ed Carpenter Racing has been arguably the strongest Chevrolet team on the speedway in recent years. Team owner and driver Ed Carpenter is a three-time pole sitter and all three of their cars routinely qualify on the front three rows. While they’re still looking for their first win, they’ve come close on several occasions, which could be tempting for Busch.
With her two full-time drivers, Rinus VeeKay and Conor Daly in two of the seats, Carpenter’s third car is reserved for himself. That would mean making a fourth entry, which may not be an option for the organization.
It wouldn’t be unusual for Carpenter to make arrangements for that, especially given the rumors that Menards already has funding. Ed guided Danica Patrick in her last Indy 500 start in 2018, so he’s used to having high-profile riders in the garage.
This could be a great back-up option, but there’s a team perfectly positioned for Kyle.
Arrow McLaren SP has been making headlines on the motorsport landscape all season. The McLaren organization apparently signed drivers left and right for seats they didn’t even have free. Earlier this week, Arrow McLaren SP President Taylor Kiel announced that he was stepping down from his position.
That could raise red flags in most cases, but not in this case. Rumor has it that Kiel is set to join Chip Ganassi Racing, where his stepfather Mike Hull works. Hull is the General Manager of the Powerhouse team and has been with Ganassi for more than three decades.
McLaren have hired Brian Barnhart, who spent last season as race strategist for Alexander Rossi at Andretti Autosport. The 2016 Indy 500 winner will join the McLaren team next season in a third full-time car. Zak Brown has already publicly expressed his desire to operate a fourth car in Indy, where they are building a state-of-the-art shop similar to their Formula 1 factory in England.
This team was strong at Indy and has the people and resources for Kyle to be successful.
Pato O’Ward has finished 6th, 4th and 2nd in his three Indy 500 starts with the team. Felix Rosenqvist finished 4th at this year’s race while two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Montoya finished 9th and 11th in a third car for the team. Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso also drove for the team in the 2020 race.
Sam Schmidt, like Busch, hails from the Las Vegas area. The AMSP co-owner has been vocal about his desire to add Kyle to the team. “I would like to find a way to bring him into my team. We saw how well his brother did and I think it would be fantastic for IndyCar. To be honest, I can’t think of a better combination.”
Only one driver has ever managed to complete all 600 laps in one day, namely the “Memorial Day Double” in Indianapolis and Charlotte. That was Tony Stewart, who placed 6th in the 2001 Indy 500 and 3rd in the Coca-Cola 600. Kyle might find that appealing and spur him on with even more motivation to finally try it.