Kurt Busch’s double duty at Indy, Charlotte no easy feat

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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What Kurt Busch plans to do on Memorial Day is no easy feat — racing in the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

Few drivers have tried it.

Only one has run all 1,100 miles.

It’s not that it can’t be done. You can fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte in less than 90 minutes.

It’s not that you can’t get a ride. The IndyCar teams like the media splash of a NASCAR face in their race, and NASCAR doesn’t mind seeing a stock-car guy showing the open-wheel guys that they can pilot a rocket, too.

No, none of that gets in the way.

What makes it tough is that it is tough.

These are different types of racing, two different types of equipment, two different types of feel and reaction. It is tough to find the time necessary to be competitive in both, let alone win. Even Tony Stewart, a former IndyCar champ, says he’d never get back in an IndyCar because he’d have so much to relearn.

But give Busch credit for wanting to try.

Like anyone who has ever raced anything with wheels, he has dreamed of running in the Indy 500. Andretti Autosport has agreed to field a fifth car for him this year and try to get him in the race.

“My dad, a Mac Tools distributor, and I would go to car shows and see Indy cars, and he’d say, ‘This is about as close as you’ll ever get to one of these things,’ because it was so far removed from what we could dream as a small blue-collar family from Las Vegas,” Busch said. “I went once to watch the 500 with Roger Penske when I first signed a contract with him to drive stock cars. To feel it, to experience it, I’m going to actually revert back to that to try to block out some of the emotional excitement of what it means to be part of the 500. To drive in it this year, nothing is going to compare, nothing can prepare or get me ready when they drop that green flag and 33 of us rush into Turn 1.”

Busch is right to be thinking about being prepared. He will spend the week after the Sprint Cup race in Kansas testing in the IndyCar, go to Charlotte for the Sprint Cup all-star race that Saturday night then fly to Indianapolis the next morning for Indy qualifying.

“I have to follow Andretti Autosport’s lead,” Busch said. “We have a full-blown test program to be the best prepared we can for the month of May. I will be a rookie, but I bring a lot of oval experience in, and we’ll see how we can blend that in. It’s about absorbing as much as I can and chewing on it the right way. Sam Hornish Jr., who was a teammate of mine at Penske Racing, I mentored him as much as I could on the stock car side. Don’t think I’m not going to call him and try to get that favor back.”

The last driver to try both races in the same day was Robby Gordon, in 2002, ’03 and ’04. John Andretti did it in 1994, and Stewart did it in 1999 and 2001. Stewart is the only driver to run all 1,100 miles in the same day, finishing sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte.

Four drivers ran both races when they were on separate days. Cale Yarborough did it in 1967, Jerry Grant in 1968, LeeRoy Yarbrough in 1969 and ’70 and Donnie Allison in 1970 and ’71. Allison’s win at Charlotte and fourth at Indy in 1970 is the best combined finish.

What got this all started? Busch tested an Andretti Autosport car at Indianapolis last summer and got the bug.

“That was a whole kid-in-a-candy-store moment of experiencing an open-wheel car at 220 mph,” he said. “You can definitely get a different appreciation for the track and its heritage with an open-wheel car versus a stock car that I’ve done the last 15 years there. It got my mind going and my juices flowing on ‘I want to do this.’

“The adrenaline and excitement was there, but last year just didn’t seem like the right timing. Now 11 months of chewing on the fat and working on the details, I’m more excited than ever to do this.”

TMS to unveil video screen

Texas Motor Speedway is unveiling the world’s largest video screen during a public Q&A session March 19 with Kyle Busch, Helio Castroneves and Duck Dynasty stars Willie and Korie Robertson. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. The south tunnel opens at 5 p.m. TMS says it will air an episode of Duck Dynasty on the big screen.

Series updates

Sprint Cup

Crashing Danica: Danica Patrick prided herself on taking care of her equipment in IndyCar. In NASCAR, it’s been tougher to stay clean. The crash at Daytona two weeks ago was the eighth time she has been unable to finish a Sprint Cup race because of an accident.

Kenseth at Vegas: Las Vegas is one of Matt Kenseth’s top performance spots. He has led more Cup laps at Vegas than anyone else and has the third-best average finish among active Cup drivers. He is the defending race champ.

Nationwide

Rookie marks: Ty Dillon, Dylan Kwasniewski and Chase Elliott are all in the top 10 in points, at fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively. Dillon started at Las Vegas last year and finished 11th.

Crafton entry: Defending Truck Series champion Matt Crafton is entered in the Nationwide race. He ran three Nationwide races last year, finishing third in two races at Kentucky and 10th at Chicago.

Camping World Truck

Off time: The series is off until the last weekend of March, when it resumes at Martinsville in a Saturday afternoon start.

Dropping off: Darrell Wallace Jr. went to the NASCAR Hall of Fame last week and dropped off the truck he used to win at Martinsville last October, when he became the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series event in 50 years.

3 Drivers who have started this season with top-5s: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski. For Gordon, it’s his first consecutive top-5s to start a year since 1997, when he won at Daytona and Rockingham.

Quotable

“The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores.” — Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, on an upcoming extension as name sponsor of the truck series

“When you see somebody spending $400 million on their track and they don’t have soft walls around the inside, maybe they could spend $403 million to go ahead and finish the inside of the superspeedway there at Daytona.” — Kevin Harvick, who last week at Daytona hit an inside wall, where there are no SAFER barriers

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @calexmendez

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