IMS willing to adjust Indy 500 schedule if Tony Stewart wants in

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials are willing to adjust the Indianapolis 500’s schedule if Tony Stewart — or any other NASCAR high-profile driver — is interested in participating in both Memorial Day weekend races.

The issue of the 500’s starting time is again front and center now that Roger Penske has publicly invited Stewart to drive one of his team’s cars at Indy. Penske made the comment at Friday’s NASCAR awards ceremony in Las Vegas, then reiterated that he’s serious about it.

Stewart hasn’t responded — publicly, at least — but the short amount of time between the 500’s scheduled conclusion and the start of NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway has in recent years prevented drivers from competing in both races.

Currently, the 500 is set for a few minutes after noon, which puts the checkered flag about 3 p.m., barely enough time to fly to North Carolina for that race.

Stewart attempted both races in 1999 and 2001. Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica Patrick could be candidates for the double.

IMS CEO Jeff Belskus said there are many details to work through, but he’d support a change in start time for the 500.

“It’s a conversation we’d be willing to have," he said today. “We’re willing to adjust if (Charlotte and NASCAR) are willing to adjust."

An ESPN vice president told the Associated Press on Monday that it would “enthusiastically support" an opportunity for drivers to compete in both races.

“We have strong partnerships with the league and speedway," said Julie Sobieski, ESPN vice president, programming and acquisitions.

The 500 airs on ABC, an ESPN property. The Charlotte race is on Fox, but ESPN is a NASCAR partner.

Belskus said a decision would need to be made in the first quarter of 2013. Last year’s 500 ticket included the scheduled start time, but that isn’t a requirement. Tickets will be printed in February, Belskus said. Indy Star

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