NASHVILLE — Team owner Roger Penske said Thursday that NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney had expressed recent interest in a potential Indianapolis 500 bid.
His response? Let’s pump the brakes.
“It’s interesting that Blaney said to me at some point over the last several weeks that he’d like to go to Indy. I said, ‘whoa,’ ” Penske said with a chuckle. “Let’s slow down here a little bit.”
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Penske’s remarks came Thursday morning ahead of the evening’s NASCAR Awards ceremonies, the culmination of a busy Champion’s Week celebration for Blaney and the Team Penske No. 12 group. Penske, who owns the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had been asked about the impact of Kyle Larson’s quest to run the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 double next May. He said that the development has already created a boost in ticket sales.
Blaney said during his Thursday media availability that his interest in the Memorial Day doubleheader was authentic.
“Honestly, it’s something I’ve bounced around in my mind for a couple years, something I feel like if you could do the double, that’s cool,” Blaney said. “Larson’s doing it next year. That’s going to be great. Yeah, I’ve poked around that idea with RP for a couple years now, and I might have to bring it back up. So we’ll see where that goes.”
Penske said fellow team owner Rick Hendrick, who fields Larson’s cars, had approached him years ago about an Indy bid for Larson in one of Team Penske’s cars. He said stretching his resources with a fourth IndyCar entry wasn’t feasible at the time, but he applauds Larson’s partnership with Arrow McLaren for the 2024 running.
“I think that his skill and his fan base in the Midwest (are) amazing,” Penske said. “And he went out there did his rookie tests, just bang, bang, bang. And I think that look, Kurt Busch has run there and you think about the other people that have come from Formula One — Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill, other people and Nigel Mansell — have been successful there. I think that he comes with a tremendous amount of talent, and it’s something that he wants to do.”
Blaney said the lure for him is a mix of participating in a race with so much tradition, but also the draw of an 1,100-mile test that few have attempted or achieved.
“I just feel like (there’s) not maybe many people (who) can do that, right, that can do the double, and it’s a pretty short list,” Blaney said. “It’d be neat to just do it. I have respect for all forms of motorsports, so I think you want to go experience something like that. At my age, it’d be kind of perfect to do it, but I just think the nostalgia of it, being able to say you ran hopefully 1,100 miles in one day on the race track is a cool feat, and cool for Kyle to be able to do it. And maybe one day, I’ll get the privilege, too.”
Blaney’s interest was news to Larson, who said he’d like to see drivers from the IndyCar world give the double a try with an extracurricular trip to the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I think that’d be really cool,” Larson said. “I would love to see, you know, a Josef Newgarden come and run the Coke 600 or something like that. I think, there’s been a lot of guys come from the NASCAR side to do it, and it would be interesting to see the other side of the switch. But yeah, I haven’t experienced it yet, so I don’t know. I’ll probably have a better opinion on it all here in a few months. But that’s cool to hear Ryan wants to do the double. I didn’t know that, so that would be be neat if he did actually get to do it someday.”