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Is there an Indy Racing League option in Jack Roush's future?

Once an IRL engine man, might NASCAR's Jack Roush make a bid to jump back in? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   If Tony George, the boss of the Indy Racing League and the man who rewrote history by bringing NASCAR to the legendary Brickyard, needs a little help getting the IRL in higher gear, NASCAR's Jack Roush says he's willing to help.
   And perhaps all George and the IRL need are some NASCAR-synergies. Cross-overs. Double-header weekends.
   And Roush-Yates engines.
   Roush, remember, once had a thriving IRL motor program, during the early days of the new league. When Toyota and Honda came in, things changed. Then Toyota left, for NASCAR. And now Honda's contract as sole engine supplier to the IRL is about up.
   Looks like an opportunity.
   "I've done Indy engines before, and I'm in the engine business," Roush says. "We could be willing to take on an engineering task for a team.
   "But I don't want to run an IRL team. I've got more than enough opportunities to embarrass myself with the things I'm doing now.
   "I would be happy to do some engines, and I would be happy to do some engineering for that, if I had a contract for that. But I do not want to run an IRL team."
    George, who just resigned as head of the family's primary business, running Indianapolis Motor Speedway, apparently under pressure to pump up the IRL, may well be here this weekend for Saturday night's 400. After all the Brickyard 400 comes up in just three weeks.
    One pressing issue for George: Danica Patrick.
   Will she jump to NASCAR? Will she stay in the IRL? Will she try to do both?
   Patrick is considered one of the three most well known racers in the U.S., with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
   Indy insiders pencil her in for an IRL ride with Chip Ganassi. However General Motors' bankruptcy has shaken up all GM's NASCAR teams, and it's unclear where Ganassi's current two-car operation (with partner Teresa Earnhardt) will shake out.
   In fact Martin Truex Jr., teammate with Juan Pablo Montoya at Ganassi's, could well be headed for a new ride next season with Toyota's Michael Waltrip. Waltrip has an announcement set this week.
   Montoya? He's run much stronger this season since switching to Chevrolet: he had a shot to win Sonoma two weeks ago, and he's 12th in the standings, which means if he sticks in there, he can make the championship chase.
   But what happens next year? Ganassi and Toyota? As a fourth Joe Gibbs team?
   And what about Danica Patrick? If she insists on an Indy-car ride, part-time, as part of any potential NASCAR deal, would that be a deal killer for NASCAR team owners?
   Or might it actually open a 'new' deal for a NASCAR Cup owner who could make the double work.
   Roger Penske has dominant Indy-car teams and a pretty solid NASCAR operation (Kurt Busch could easily have pulled off the win here Sunday). In fact Penske runs both out of his North Carolina shop.
   But aside from Penske and Ganassi, no one else in NASCAR has an Indy-car side.
   Some top cars owners over the past few years, like Richard Childress, have talked about adding an Indy-car team to their portfolio. And Richard Petty at least added his name to an Indy 500 package this season.
   Putting together a decent Indy-car team wouldn't be that difficult for any NASCAR owner, because many of the Cup engineers are either former Indy men or familiar enough to do both.
   NASCAR owner-drivers Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon could both do both easily, if they were inclined.


Some Indy-car men say car owner Chip Ganassi (L, here with Dario Franchitti) may have the inside track on a new Indy-car ride for Danica Patrick. But with the confusion following General Motors' bankruptcy, the situation may now be much more complicated, since Ganassi's current
Chevy deal appears up for debate, as are other NASCAR Chevy deals (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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