NTT IndyCar Series team owner/driver Ed Carpenter says he’d welcome a chance to run Kyle Busch at the Indianapolis 500. With the two-time, defending NASCAR Cup Series champion having expressed an interest in racing at the Indy 500, Carpenter’s Chevy-powered team would be a perfect fit.
With a tradition of entering a third car for Indy, and its front-running reputation at the Speedway, ECR could play host to the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver in the future. Busch’s brother Kurt took part in the 2014 Indy 500, starting 12th and finishing sixth on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.
“It’s something that I would be interested in,” said Carpenter, the three-time Indy 500 polesitter. “Kyle and I have talked over the past couple of years. I think it would be a great thing for him to come do it. His brother did an outstanding job and showed that those guys given the right situation, the right cars, teammates, etc., that they can adapt very quickly. I’ve no doubt that Kyle could come and do a great job. So I have no problems seeing him come. I would be happy to have him as part of our team in the right time and place. I would say it’s highly unlikely that that would happen for us in 2020, just because of where we are with our program.”
ECR has two full-time entries for the 2020 season, with Carpenter in the No. 20 Chevy on ovals and Conor Daly in the seat for road and street courses, and promising rookie Rinus VeeKay in for the entire calendar with the No. 21 car. Daly, who tends to impress at the 500, was announced as its third driver for Indy — pushing a possible alliance between ECR and Busch to 2021, at the earliest.
As the defending series champions and reigning Indy 500 winners, Team Penske serves as the most obvious outfit for Busch to pursue. But with its four Chevy-powered entries taken by The Captain’s three full-timers, and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves as the team’s standing fourth program for May, ECR could be the first and only destination to consider.
Among its high-profile Indy efforts, Carpenter’s team ran Danica Patrick in her retirement race at Indy in 2018, and was in the running to field a car for McLaren Racing and Fernando Alonso last year, but opted to stick with its regular-season trio. If an ECR Chevy comes to pass for Busch at the 500 at some point, Carpenter knows a fourth entry would be required, which would be a first for the team.
“Anytime we’ve added anything, I always want to make sure that we’re doing it for the right reasons and that it’s going to help the entire effort,” said Carpenter, who’s made it clear in the past that expanding the team for Indy isn’t meant to be a hindrance to earning his first win at the 500.
“I do want to win the race. That’s number one on my list. But at the same time, I would be almost as happy too if any of our cars won it. It would still be a giant accomplishment. So anytime that we would look to add a program or a driver, we look at whether or not we feel like it’s going to help our chances or hurt our chances. And that’s why I say it’s unlikely (for Busch) right now just because I don’t think that we would feel comfortable running two additional entries beyond what we run full time and feel like we would be doing ourselves a service, or in this case be doing the best that we could for Kyle.”
Coming off a competitive run last weekend at his first Rolex 24 At Daytona in a Lexus RC F GT3 sports car, Busch’s immense talent and adaptability makes for an intriguing ‘what if’ at the Indy 500. Count Carpenter among those with an interest and the ability to find out how ‘Rowdy’ would fare in faster machinery around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s something that I’m following,” he added. “I would definitely be open to it in the future. I think the timing of his saying he’s available and whatnot was probably a little too late for us. But you never know down the road.”