Arrow McLaren SP will not run Kyle Busch in next year’s Indianapolis 500 but is still planning on a fourth entry.
Busch emerged as a surprise candidate to make his Indy 500 debut for the team in 2023 following the NASCAR star’s move to Richard Childress Racing to drive the Chevrolet-powered No.8 entry next year. That link-up opened the door for discussions regarding an IndyCar run at the Brickyard next May, but RACER now understands that an agreement has not been reached.
As McLaren is expanding to a three-car effort on a full-time basis in IndyCar next season, the team’s priority at Indianapolis is to provide a fourth entry for the 500 that will deliver further value to the team’s hopes of victory. While Busch would bring obvious media and commercial interest, the desire to have a more experienced driver has outweighed those aspects – a scenario that McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown reinforced in a media briefing on Wednesday.
“We want to make sure that if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that’s experienced around the 500,” said Brown.
“It’s such an important race from a championship point of view. We’ve got three drivers that we want to finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car we’d want that to be additive. Not only to the fourth car itself, but to the other three cars. So bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.
“[Busch] is an awesome talent and would huge, huge news for the Speedway. Everyone’s under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be most important to us.”
Tony Kanaan has emerged as the favorite for the ride after finishing third in his sole IndyCar outing at the 500 this year, while the team has previously run Juan Pablo Montoya at Indianapolis and could turn to the Colombian again if required.
There is also understood to have been interest in Kyle Larson but that is similarly unlikely to be pursued for 2023 for the same reasons as the Busch discussions coming to an end.
For reasons largely centered on available cars and funding, Busch’s best chances for making his first Indy 500 start rested with the McLaren-owned AMSP team. Due to his upcoming NASCAR Cup manufacturer switch from Toyota to Chevrolet, Busch’s options are limited to IndyCar programs linked to the Bowtie. All would need approximately $1.5 million to be provided to cover the adventure, which only suited the sponsor-rich AMSP team’s capabilities.
Among the other options within the Chevy-powered IndyCar paddock, few would present one of the best NASCAR drivers of his generation with a strong chance of finding success at the Indy 500 or hold a desire to expand their Speedway programs.
Outside of AMSP, the A.J. Foyt Racing team won its last Indy 500 in 1999. The Indy-only Dreyer & Reinbold Racing outfit impressed in May but continues to seek its first victory; Ed Carpenter Racing is always fast but had an abundance of preexisting entries and relationships to manage next May.
Juncos Hollinger Racing is expanding to two cars and will limit itself to two entries, and after downsizing to three cars in 2022 and reaping championship success, Team Penske remains committed to staying at three cars while trying to find its missing pace at the most recent Indy 500.
With AMSP out of the frame for 2023, Busch, whose brother Kurt finished sixth at his Indy 500 debut in 2014, will likely need to shift his search to the 2024 edition of The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.