Kyle Busch's Best Indy 500 Opportunity is Arrow McLaren SP

When Busch met with reporters shortly after announcing his move to Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series next year, he touched on one item that was once a hot topic. Doing the traditional “double” has always been on Kyle’s bucket list. He may be closer to that now than ever before, but why hasn’t it happened already?

Kyle had a deal in place to drive for Roger Penske in the 2017 Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but his boss Joe Gibbs put cold water on that fire. When the 2020 Indy 500 was moved to August due to the pandemic, he tried to put another deal together since it would not interfere with his Cup obligations, but it never came to fruition.

Now that the door is wide open, Busch is ready to start talking about it. “I made sure that was in the deal,” he said about running the race. “By all means, any IndyCar teams that are Chevrolet, call me up.”

With Kyle no longer restricted from running in the iconic event, the question is which team would be the best fit for his services? When his brother Kurt ran the 500 in 2014, he drove for Andretti Autosport, but they are a Honda-powered team.

The first choice might seem like it would be Penske, but despite Roger Penske’s monumental success (18 Indy 500 wins) at IMS, the team has somewhat struggled in recent years.

The team ran four cars in the 2020 race but scored just one top-ten finish. They had the same result in 2021 and struggled in qualifying once again as Will Power nearly got bumped and started on the last row. This past year, none of their three drivers qualified inside the top-ten, and finished 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 to have Kyle run the Indy 500. I think it’s good for the series and it’d just be interesting to see him in a car like that. His brother did really well, so I’d expect him to be just as good.” Kurt finished 6th in that race, earning Rookie of the Year honors.

Penske trimmed their lineup to three full-time cars this year, which resulted in a 1-2-4 placement in the championship. All three drivers won races, combining to win nine of the 17 rounds. Adding a fourth car while managing their new sportscar program is something Roger would likely want to avoid, especially with their recent struggles at his home track.

Ed Carpenter Racing has been arguably the strongest Chevrolet team at 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 in the front three rows. While they are still searching for their first win, they have been close on several occasions, which could be enticing to Busch.

With their two full-time drivers Rinus VeeKay and Conor Daly already in two of the seats, Carpenter’s third car is reserved for himself. That would mean running a fourth entry, which may not be in the cards for the organization.

It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Carpenter to make arrangements for this to happen, especially with funding rumored to be in place already with Menards. Ed ran Danica Patrick in her final Indy 500 start back in 2018, so he is used to having high-profile drivers in the garage.

This could be a great fallback option, but there is one team that is set up perfectly for Kyle.

Arrow McLaren SP has been making headlines all season across the motorsports landscape. The McLaren organization was seemingly signing drivers left and right, for seats that they didn’t even have available. Earlier this week Taylor Kiel, President of Arrow McLaren SP, announced that he was resigning from his position.

That might send up red flags in most instances, but not this one. Kiel is rumored to be heading to Chip Ganassi Racing, where his stepfather Mike Hull works. Hull is the Managing Director for the powerhouse team, and has been at Ganassi for more than three decades.

McLaren has hired Brian Barnhart, who spent the past season as race strategist for Alexander Rossi at Andretti Autosport. The 2016 Indy 500 winner is joining the McLaren team next season in a third full-time car. Zak Brown has already publicly stated his desire to run a fourth car at Indy, where they are building a state-of-the-art shop similar to their Formula One factory in England.

This team has been strong at Indy, and they have the people and the resources for Kyle to thrive.

Pato O’Ward has finished 6th, 4th, and 2nd in his three Indy 500 starts with the team. Felix Rosenqvist finished 4th in this year’s race while two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Montoya has finished 9th and 11th in a third car for the team. Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso also drove for the team in the 2020 race.

Sam Schmidt hails from the Las Vegas area, like Busch. The AMSP co-owner has been vocal about his desire to have Kyle join the team. “I’d love to figure out a way to get him on my team. We saw how good his brother did, and I think it would be fantastic for IndyCar. Frankly, I can’t think of a better combination.”

Only one driver has ever managed to complete all 600 laps in one day, doing the “Memorial Day Double” at Indianapolis and Charlotte. That was Tony Stewart, who finished 6th in the Indy 500 and 3rd in the Coca-Cola 600 back in 2001. Kyle might find that appealing, fueling him with even more motivation to finally give this a shot.

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