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2012: Whither Indy-car...and is Kurt Busch losing crew chief Steve Addington to Chevy's Tony Stewart?

  Crew chief Steve Addington (R) and Kurt Busch: two years together, four wins, both playoffs....but perhaps now splitting at the end of the year? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern


   NASCAR's 2012 Nationwide touring schedule is slowly, slowly taking shape, and Friday Kentucky Speedway announced it would host two Nationwide events next season, the first in June as a double-header weekend with the Cup race June 30th, the second Sept. 22 as a double-header weekend with the Truck series.

   NASCAR, which usually announces next season's touring schedules by early September, said Friday it expected to have the new Nationwide schedule ready for release "next week."  However that has been the word from NASCAR the past several weeks.
   But the Indy-car world news may be the more important issue: both Kentucky and New Hampshire have decided not to renew contracts for 2012 Indy-car races.
   Mark Simendinger, Kentucky general manager, says he was "unable to come to terms to bring the IZOD Indy-car Series to our venue in 2012."
   Jerry Gappens, who runs New Hampshire Motor Speedway for owner Bruton Smith, says he and Indy-car officials "could not mutually agree on an economic model that would make an Indy-car race financially successful."
    Those are two blows to Indy-car tour boss Randy Bernard, whose series concludes the 2011 season with Sunday's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 2012 Indy-car series will also conclude at Las Vegas; but the full tour schedule hasn't been released.
    Kentucky and New Hampshire leaving the Indy-car tour follows last year's decisions by NASCAR's Homestead, Chicago, Kansas, and Watkins Glen to drop the tour.
    That would leave Texas Motor Speedway and Sonoma's Infineon Raceway as the only two NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks with Indy-car events in 2012.
    Indy-car's Bernard has been interested in double-headers with the Sprint Cup series, but NASCAR CEO Brian France has curtly vetoed that.
    The Indy-car tour has been on a downward slide for several years now, and Bernard says he is banking on good TV ratings for Sunday's ABC telecast to help turn things around.

   Meanwhile the future for crew chief Steve Addington with Roger Penske and driver Kurt Busch is unclear, amid speculation that Addington may leave the Penske-Busch team at the end of the season and move to the Tony Stewart camp. Penske himself says that's news to him. Addington and Busch themselves aren't saying much.
   The issue is a volatile one, since Busch and Addington are in the middle of the NASCAR championship playoffs, just 16 points off the lead, in his bid for a second Sprint Cup title. This report would certainly be a major distraction, until resolved one way or the other.
   If Addington were to leave, it would mark the second time in the last few years that Busch has had a crew chief deciding to split while in the middle of the chase. Pat Tryson, while crew chief for Busch in the 2009 playoffs, said he would be leaving at the end of that season.
   Addington and Busch have won twice this season, at Sonoma and Dover; last season they also won twice, at Atlanta and Charlotte.
   Addington won 14 races with Kurt Busch's brother Kyle, but an ill-fated 2008 playoff run led Addington and Kyle Busch to split before the end of the chase.
   The news about Kurt Busch possibly losing Addington would likely be a blow to the team's title chances. It is not clear if any title rival teams might have leaked word of the possible move. And it is unclear what clauses Penske contracts might include.
   Busch, who drives Dodges for Penske, has had run-ins with rivals over the years, including Jimmie Johnson this season in particular, and Stewart and Kevin Harvick previously. All three of those Chevy drivers are in this year's championship playoffs.


    Indy-car boss Randy Bernard: with the 2011 championship trophy, in Las Vegas for the tour finale Sunday (Photo: Indy-car)






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