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.
LABONTE INJURED: Bobby Labonte broke three ribs in a bike riding accident Wednesday near his North Carolina home and will miss this weekend’s NASCAR race in Atlanta.
A spokesman for the driver said Labonte was taken to a hospital by ambulance and will be held overnight for observation.
Labonte was scheduled to drive the No. 51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He’ll be replaced in the car by Mike Bliss.
Labonte’s consecutive starts streak came to an end earlier this season at 704 races when JTG Daugherty Racing used AJ Allmendinger at Kentucky in June instead of Labonte.
The 2000 NASCAR champion had not missed a start since he began racing full-time in the Cup Series in 1993. He’s won 21 races Cup races.
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.”
MWR will use vice president of competition Scott Miller as crew chief for Vickers the rest of the season, while team engineer Billy Scott will take on additional responsibilities with the car setup. Childers is expected to join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 as crew chief for Kevin Harvick, but SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said the deal isn’t complete.
“I feel like we’re in a good spot, but we don’t have it done yet,” Zipadelli said. “Hopefully in the next week to 10 days it will be done and official.”
MWR parting ways now with Childers is not surprising since manufacturer Toyota does not want him to play a role in 2014 development knowing he’s going to work for a Chevrolet team.
YOUNG WINNER: Kyle Benjamin became the youngest winner in ARCA Racing Series history when he won at Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin.
Benjamin, who turns 16 in November, led 131 laps to win Sunday by seven seconds in a Venturini Motorsports car.
“It’s definitely the biggest thing that has ever happened to me,” Benjamin said. “I’m ecstatic right now. I’m not going to sleep tonight. I’m not going to sleep.”
Venturini Crew Chief Kevin Reed was impressed by Benjamin’s run that saw him change just two tires for the entire 200 lap race.
“Kyle’s been awesome all year,” Reed said. “He was just flawless today.”
Reigning NASCAR Truck Series champion James Buescher had been the youngest winner in series history, winning at USA International in Lakeland, Fla., two days shy of his 16th birthday in 2007. Ross Kenseth, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth, won the pole and finished sixth in his ARCA debut.
The race will air on NBC Sports Network at 11 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29. Matt Kenseth joined fellow NASCAR driver Ken Schrader in the broadcast booth for the race.