By Jenna Fryer
The Associated Press
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.”
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.”