Cody Ware says Indy 500 option discussed as he aims to build credibility in multiple series
Now that he (literally) is a fit in the NTT IndyCar Series, Cody Ware is exploring a partial schedule (and possibly the Indy 500) with Dale Coyne Racing while also running full time in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Though his son’s ambitious IndyCar-NASCAR schedule has yet to be finalized, team owner Rick Ware confirmed Wednesday in an IndyCar-hosted Zoom news conference that Cody Ware would be part of Rick Ware Racing’s new full-season partnership with Coyne, whose team has four oval races open in a ride primarily driven by Romain Grosjean. DCR also will field a third Dallara-Honda in select events, including the Indy 500.
Asked by NBCSports.com’s Dustin Long if he had considered becoming the fifth driver to attempt the Indy 500-Coca-Cola 600 doubleheader (joining John Andretti, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch), Ware said there were “definitely been some very brief discussions on things like that.
“Logistically, I don’t have a private plane or helicopter,” he said during a NASCAR-hosted Zoom news conference Thursday. “Money is the biggest factor on going down that road. My only options would be commercial (flights) or unless I found a sponsor to pay for a private plane or helicopter. There might be one or two IndyCar races that I partake where I have to miss out on a Cup race because I don’t have the funds of a Kurt Busch to jet set where I need. It’s just part of the struggles we have. I’ll take advantage of doing a little bit of everything and see how it plays out.”
Cody Ware said he spent two weeks visiting Coyne’s shop in Plainfield, Illinois, to ensure he could fold his 6-4 frame into the cockpit (“it’s a tight fit; I don’t have as much padding as I’d like, but I feel comfortable”), perhaps for an eventual run at the Brickyard. If he were to make his Indy 500 debut, Ware said he might not be that interested in departing Indianapolis Motor Speedway so quickly.
“It would be an amazing experience,” Ware, 25, said. “The Indy 500 is something I’ve never dreamed of racing being 6-foot-4. I never thought I could sit in a single-seater car, let alone go racing. I might want to soak it in and spend time looking at the pagoda and being in Indianapolis. Because from a money and physical perspective, I never thought IndyCar would ever be on a bucket list of things I’d go racing.”
Ware made his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series debut with the Rolex 24 at Daytona last month, finishing 10th overall (fourth in class) in the RWR/Eurasia LMP2 entry that included 2018 Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon (who wanted more road-course experience for his No. 3 Chevrolet in Cup).
As an amateur-rated driver in the LMP2 AM division of the Asian Le Mans Series, Ware finished first in the points standings for the four-race 2019-20 season, earning class victories in Australia and Malaysia.
He took part in an open IndyCar test two weeks ago at Sebring International Raceway that “went really well … probably the most fun I’ve had driving a race car.” Ware said he posted lap times on par with IndyCar’s 2021 rookie field (which includes Jimmie Johnson).
The team has yet to address its schedule for Ware with NTT IndyCar Series officials. Once that step is taken, the series would set up a process for Ware to be approved on road and street courses (in addition to Sebring, the series likely will have another preseason test that could allow for further evaluation).
In order to race ovals, Ware also would need to complete a speedway program starting on a smaller oval (such as Texas). To race in the Indy 500, he would need to complete IMS’ Rookie Orientation Program that is mandatory for new Indy 500 drivers.
“The big thing is everyone who knows me knows I love road racing,” Ware said of IndyCar’s appeal. “As much as I love IMSA, there are a lot of variables in co-drivers. IndyCar is me, myself and I. don’t have to worry about a co-driver wrecking a car. I do good, that’s on me. I do bad, that’s on me.”
Ware said his experience in a high-downforce prototype helped prepare him for how an IndyCar handles, and he also used his sports car knowledge to help Dillon during a session with the Dallara simulator in Indianapolis ahead of the Rolex 24.
“Working with Austin Dillon at the Rolex 24 was a major boost to my credibility,” Ware said. “He learned a lot from me, I learned a lot from him on the stock car side. I was able to get him running pretty awesome on the sports car side. That will help with my credibility and respect in NASCAR. People are starting to see now I have a lot more seat time, particularly on road courses, than people realize.
“It’s a time thing, have to earn respect. You can’t get on social media and just say, ‘This is what I’ve done.’ ”
Ware has 51 starts across NASCAR’s Cup, Xfinity and truck series with a career-high 13 races at the premier level in 2019. His best Cup finish was a 19th in his most recent start (Oct. 4 at Talladega Superspeedway).
While the move to full-time Cup will present some schedule conflicts, Ware said the team is looking hard at the IndyCar doubleheader race weekend June 12-13 at Belle Isle Raceway. That is the weekend of the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“We might call it a wash in NASCAR,” he said. “With Texas not being a points race, I could focus on the IndyCar program and not miss a proper points race.”