Tony Kanaan and Kyle Busch couldn’t contain their respective smiles after sharing a unique two-seater experience around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course ahead of final practice Friday for the Gallagher Grand Prix.
Although Busch attempted to convince Kanaan to let him drive with a series of texts in the buildup, the two-time Cup Series champion was left being the passenger through the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
“It's a big responsibility,” said Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner. “But a guy like Kyle knows exactly the speeds. He knew exactly when I braked. It was fun. Obviously, I drove as hard as I could because I would not do justice to the guy if I was taking it easy. So, I think he enjoyed it. He probably would rather be driving, but that wasn't up to me.”
The experience only further teased the thought of one day racing in the Indianapolis 500 for Busch, driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Richard Childress Racing.
“Yeah, I've kind of always said I'd love to give it a shot and have that opportunity to be able to get out there,” Busch said. “Obviously, being able to just roll around here on the Indy road course is vastly different than the oval, but still to get my hands and feet and everything else behind the wheel and maybe go make some laps would certainly be neat.”
The opportunity was a fun part of this unique crossover weekend at IMS that features the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone.
Busch is a big supporter of NASCAR and INDYCAR series sharing IMS for a third consecutive year.
“It's really fun to just kind of have the two - garage area, paddock - being near each other and then the camaraderie between some of the INDYCAR drivers” Busch said. “I'm friends with a few other of those guys over there, Josef Newgarden, namely. But it's been fun to just watch.
“I watch NHRA. I watch INDYCAR. I watch off-road stuff when I can. Anything that's on there. It's really neat to just get with those guys. And running in SRX (Superstars Racing Experience) this year has really brought that on as well, too. I saw Josef at Motor Mile and then Tony was actually racing the races I was not racing, and vice versa. So, I haven't seen him yet until today.”
Kanaan, the 2004 INDYCAR SERIES champion who now works as a driver coach for Arrow McLaren, hailed Busch as “a real race car driver” for his desire to challenge for glory in the Indianapolis 500 even after all he has accomplished in motorsports.
“I'm pretty sure that knowing him, he is going to try as hard as he can before he retires to do the ‘500,’” Kanaan said.
Perhaps the best part happened moments after exiting the car as Kanaan joked about the pair putting a two-seater on the grid for next year’s 108th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” which would see them each contest 250 miles.
"Yeah,” Kanaan said, “we made an announcement that we were racing together next year."
DeFrancesco Rolls to Career-Best Qualifying Performance
Devlin DeFrancesco delivered a sterling showing in an ultra-competitive qualifying bout at the Racing Capital of the World.
The Canadian rocketed to a flying lap of 1 minute, 10.3938 seconds (124.733 mph) to qualify fifth in the No. 29 TRUBAR/Jones Soda Honda for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport, shattering his previous best of ninth last year at Word Wide Technology Raceway. Today’s result marked the first time DeFrancesco made the Firestone Fast Six, as well as leading the first group of Round 1 earlier in the session.
“It's a big weight off my shoulders,” DeFrancesco said. “It's really been tough the last few events, but I tried to really reset and refresh. I had dinner with Scott Harner (strategist) the other night, just went over things and just let it come to you. Don't try and go for something that's not there, just do the best you can with what you have. The guys gave me an amazing car today. So, looking forward to enjoying today, but looking forward to tomorrow.”
George Michael Steinbrenner IV, co-owner of the team, didn’t appear surprised by the outing. Instead, he expected it given the flashes of pace DeFrancesco has demonstrated recently.
“Anytime that you can be there for the whole time in qualifying is good,” Steinbrenner said. “Anytime that you have a chance to fight for a pole and fight for a good starting spot. It's all been about just more and more time for Dev to develop and to feel more comfortable and know what he needs to do. And it's obviously getting closer and closer.
“You don't qualify fifth for an INDYCAR race in any shape or form without having to prove that he belonged in that spot. It doesn't matter what car you're in. So, just seeing that improvement from Dev and trying to build on it is really what a goal is for tomorrow.”
Scotty Mac Shares Simulator Time with SVG
Scott McLaughlin enjoyed some time with a longtime friend and former Supercars rival Shane van Gisbergen ahead of this weekend’s Brickyard weekend.
The admiration the two New Zealanders share for one another became especially prevalent last month when “SVG” drove to an electrifying victory in his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the inaugural race on the streets of Chicago. During the event, McLaughlin expressed his excitement with the world via social media.
This weekend’s run of action on the IMS road course will see van Gisbergen make his second-ever Cup Series start in Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard, while McLaughlin will contest the Gallagher Grand Prix on Saturday.
“I saw him at the simulator the other day,” McLaughlin said. “I felt it was cool to have him here, come into our session, just watch me race around for a little bit. It was funny, the differences between NASCAR and INDYCAR. He was laughing at that.
“Yeah, look, excited. I think he's going to jump on the pit stand or something like that during one of those sessions over the races this weekend. Super cool to be racing the same weekend as him and (Supercars driver) Brodie (Kostecki). It's going to be an awesome thing.”
McLaughlin qualified 11th for Saturday’s 85-lap round in the No. 3 Gallagher Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet.
Grid Penalties Announced
INDYCAR announced grid penalties for three drivers Friday morning.
A six-position starting grid penalty was assessed for the entries of No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing (Helio Castroneves), No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD (David Malukas) and No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Jack Harvey) for unapproved engine changes following the Sunday, Aug. 6 race on the Streets of Nashville.
The violations mean Harvey falls from his eighth-place qualifying outing to 14th, while Castroneves drops from 12th to 18th. Malukas will start from last in the 27-car field after qualifying 23rd.
Odds & Ends
- Ahead of opening practice Friday, Graham Rahal provided an in-depth tutorial of an NTT INDYCAR SERIES steering wheel to Ryan Preece, driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series. Preece admitted the wheel had “too many buttons” while watching the session, which Rahal led before later winning the pole.
- Rahal’s NTT P1 Award for the Gallagher Grand Prix was his first pole since the opening race of the 2017 doubleheader at Belle Isle.
- With Rahal and Christian Lundgaard qualifying 1-2, it marked the first front row lockout for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing since April 2019 at Barber Motorsports Park.
- Championship leader Alex Palou failed to make the Firestone Fast Six, qualifying ninth with a lap of 1:10.2974 for his third worst start of the season (15th, Toronto; 12th, Iowa Race 2) in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
- Josef Newgarden, who comes into the weekend second in the title race and 84 points behind Palou (513-429), suffered a tough blow after qualifying 19th after a flying lap of 1: 10.6150 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
- Neither Chip Ganassi Racing nor Team Penske was represented in the Firestone Fast Six, with rookie Marcus Armstong leading that pack by qualifying seventh in the No. 10 IU Simon Cancer Center Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
- Hunter McElrea claimed his first win of the season in INDY NXT by Firestone, which elevated the Andretti Autosport driver to second in the championship standings. McElrea trails leader Christian Rasmussen by 33 points with four races to go.
- Irishman James Roe scored a career-best runner-up result in the INDY by Firestone round, besting his previous best finish of fourth Aug. 6 at Nashville.
- Kiko Porto finished ninth in his INDY NXT by Firestone debut for Cape Motorsports, making six on-track passes on the day.