Just in case
Ganassi looking for backup for Stewart
INDIANAPOLIS (CNNSI.com) -- Ganassi Racing has a backup plan. They hope it remains a plan.
If everything goes according to schedule, it probably will be able to keep Tony Stewart in the No. 33 car for the entire race. Stewart, who drives full time for Joe Gibbs' NASCAR team, plans to race in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday -- just as he did in 1999.
Gibbs allowed Stewart to start at Indianapolis on one condition -- that the driver be in Charlotte, N.C., for the start of the NASCAR race at 5:45 p.m. Eastern. The Indianapolis 500 begins at noon Eastern and the flight to Charlotte will take 1 hour, 10 minutes.
That means if there's rain delay or even a slow race, Stewart might have to leave early -- even if he's leading.
So Ganassi's team has prepared a list of backup drivers.
"We're pretty close to having one," team manager Mike Hull said Wednesday. "We submitted a list of four drivers and the track officials said that any one of those guys would be fine."
Hull would not reveal the names. The deadline for notifying track officials of Stewart's backup is Friday.
"We wanted someone who had some experience, someone who's been there this month," Hull said. "I think if you look at who's available, you probably could figure it out."
The relief drivers are likely to come from those who tried but failed to qualify this month. Those drivers include Raul Boesel, Roberto Guerrero, Jimmy Kite, Didier Andre, Tyce Carlson, John Paul Jr., Richie Hearn, Shigeaki Hattori, Casey Mears and Memo Gidley.
Stewart has expressed no complaints about the deal he made with Gibbs.
"They're pretty generous in letting me do this," he said. "Saying that at a certain time I have to be out of the IRL car to make sure that I start this race on time, I don't think that is unreasonable."
Stewart has not said what time he will have to leave.
But Gibbs' team has prepared two scenarios for Stewart -- both of which have him boarding a helicopter by 4 p.m. Eastern.
In both cases, the race is expected to take 3 1/2 hours, but if Stewart finishes among the top three, he will participate in the Victory Lane ceremonies then board a helicopter and fly by plane to Concord (N.C.) Regional Airport. That would leave Stewart either 35 or 50 minutes, depending on his finish in Indianapolis, to reach the track and prepare for the second race.
The third scenario -- should the Indianapolis 500 not be completed in 3 1/2 hours -- would require Stewart to park the car and leave early, meaning Ganassi would need a relief driver.
"We hope that doesn't happen," Hull said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.