Kurt Busch still trying to do Indianapolis 500
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By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Zipadelli, crew chief both times Tony Stewart ran the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, is no fan of the grueling doubleheader.
It's a position he made clear last October to Danica Patrick as she was trying to put together an Indy 500 deal that would interfere with her first full season of Sprint Cup racing.
"I think it's the craziest thing I've ever heard," Zipadelli said last year of Patrick's desire to run at Indianapolis. "I lived through it twice with one of the greatest racers I've ever seen, and trying to run both of those races is just stupid. She needs to focus on the Cup car if that's what she wants to do. If she's here to be in NASCAR, then she needs to be here focused on NASCAR."
Patrick heeded that advice and halted her plans. Stewart, the three-time NASCAR champion, also took a pass when Roger Penske in December offered him a ride in the 500.
Now Zipadelli has a new problem on his hands: Kurt Busch, the newest addition at Stewart-Haas Racing, said he's still trying to put together a deal to run next year's Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport.
"It's something that's still on the table," Busch said Tuesday when he was introduced at SHR. "There's certain timelines that I've agreed to with Michael Andretti if we're still going to do the deal. We're working on things."
Busch is also trying to put something together to run the IndyCar season finale at Fontana, and said Stewart, his new boss at SHR, wants to go to the race with him if he does.
It was enough to make Zipadelli, the competition director at SHR, wince several times.
Stewart, the co-owner at SHR, is sidelined the rest of the year with a broken leg suffered in a sprint car race, and Zipadelli has said several times there's not much anyone can do to limit Stewart's outside racing schedule. But running events away from NASCAR is obviously a delicate subject right now.
"There's still the concern of running extracurricular races," Busch said. "We'll see what opportunities lay ahead. Everything has to be the right situation for it to happen."
Zipadelli tried to keep his humor intact when asked later about the prospect of having three SHR drivers interested in running the Indy 500 next year.
"Maybe I'll try to do it, too," he quipped. "They make it sound so much fun."
LAST SUPPER: Rodney Childers called his last race for Michael Waltrip Racing at Bristol on Saturday night and was shown the door this week over his decision to leave at the end of the season.
MWR released Childers as crew chief for Brian Vickers this week over his decision not to return next season. He's still under contract until the end of the year, and tweeted a photo of a lunch Monday with his crew titled "the last supper."
MWR will use vice president of competition Scott Miller as crew chief for Vickers the rest of the season, while team engineer Billy Scott will take on additional responsibilities with the car setup. Childers is expected to join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 as crew chief for Kevin Harvick, but SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said the deal isn't complete.
"I feel like we're in a good spot, but we don't have it done yet," Zipadelli said. "Hopefully in the next week to 10 days it will be done and official."
MWR parting ways now with Childers is not surprising since manufacturer Toyota does not want him to play a role in 2014 development knowing he's going to work for a Chevrolet team.
BECAUSE HE CAN: Tony Stewart has taken some heat the last month for his decision to let Ryan Newman go to make room for Kevin Harvick to join the team.
Stewart said in July he just didn't have room at Stewart-Haas Racing for Newman, who doesn't have full sponsorship for 2014, and the organization wasn't ready for four cars.
Fans didn't understand why Danica Patrick, who is fully funded by sponsor GoDaddy, got to stay instead of Newman. Then they didn't understand why Stewart didn't change his mind after Newman's win July 28 win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And when word leaked that SHR was indeed expanding to four teams to make room for Kurt Busch? Well, fans screamed Stewart was just a flat-out liar.
SHR co-owner Gene Haas insisted this week Stewart did everything right and it was Haas who wanted Busch over Newman. Haas is paying for Busch out of pocket and will sponsor him with his Haas Automation company.
"Ryan has been an excellent driver. He's been with us going on five years now. I think he's done a great job driving the car. I think he's been a great sponsor driver. He's done well at all of that," Haas said. "The question is, at some point I am now going to be the sponsor. I just simply wanted a change and an opportunity to do something different. I don't think this says anything negative about Ryan.
"After five years, I just feel that I want to take hold of an opportunity that was presented to me. It gives me a chance to, you know, be a sponsor and direct things the way I wanted to direct them."
Haas also said he didn't have a chance to direct things when he brought Stewart in as co-owner in 2009. It was Stewart who set the driver lineup then, choosing himself and Newman for the two-car team, and Haas had little say.
"Tony Stewart is somewhat of an overwhelming personality. When he came in here, Haas CNC Racing had no credibility -- we were a small, struggling team in the back that would have died out and nobody would have noticed," Haas said. "When Tony came in, Tony selected himself as a driver. That made perfect sense. He also selected Ryan Newman as his co-driver. That relationship effectively lasted for four years until Danica Patrick came on. The die was set, it was cast, that was the way it was going to be. Wasn't much wiggle room for me to do much."
YOUNG WINNER: Kyle Benjamin became the youngest winner in ARCA Racing Series history when he won at Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin.
Benjamin, who turns 16 in November, led 131 laps to win Sunday by seven seconds in a Venturini Motorsports car.
"It's definitely the biggest thing that has ever happened to me," Benjamin said. "I'm ecstatic right now. I'm not going to sleep tonight. I'm not going to sleep."
Venturini Crew Chief Kevin Reed was impressed by Benjamin's run that saw him change just two tires for the entire 200 lap race.
"Kyle's been awesome all year," Reed said. "He was just flawless today."
Reigning NASCAR Truck Series champion James Buescher had been the youngest winner in series history, winning at USA International in Lakeland, Fla., two days shy of his 16th birthday in 2007. Ross Kenseth, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth, won the pole and finished sixth in his ARCA debut.
The race will air on NBC Sports Network at 11 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29. Matt Kenseth joined fellow NASCAR driver Ken Schrader in the broadcast booth for the race.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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