Kurt Busch has a better feel for IndyCar learning curve now

Posted Wednesday, May. 21, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Kurt Busch “joined the club,” in Tony Kanaan’s words, with a crash in practice at Indianapolis this week.

He hit the wall in Turn 2 on Monday, leaving his car in pieces and flames.

Now the NASCAR driver will have to race in a backup car Sunday when he attempts to run both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Only 13 times has the double been attempted, and only six times on the same day. (The races were on separate dates from 1961 to 1973).

For Busch, it’s his first try.

And it’s probably why he crashed. His NASCAR mentality, to settle in for a long run, allowed the car a split second to get away from him.

“I was starting to feel comfortable,” he told the Indianapolis Star. “Maybe that’s where I made the mistake of letting my guard down or settling into that long-run type of mentality, whereas with an Indy car, you have to be on edge. You have to keep track of where you are at all times and the adjustments in the car.”

His Sprint Cup crew chief, Daniel Knost, winced when he saw the crash.

“Nobody wants to see a crash, especially with your driver, but I texted him afterward and he seemed to be in good spirits. He sounded like he was feeling good,” Knost said. “At that point, you almost go, ‘OK, it is what it is, and it kind of stinks, but we’ve wrecked cars, and that’s just part of racing. It happens.’

“As long as he feels OK from it, then you just put it behind you and move forward.”

That was Busch’s thinking.

“As a rookie there’s things that you learn and put it up on the edge and get away with, and there are times when it will bite you,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t keep up with keeping the car underneath me,” he said. “Trying to get into that rhythm and feel other things around you, and I got behind on my adjustments in the car.”

Busch has plenty of skill for the attempt. He just needs the practice, which he has been trying to cram in for three weeks, and it seemingly paid off when he barely missed the “Fast Nine” qualifying session.

But he’ll still start 10th on the Indy grid, which is not bad for a rookie.

No one has won both races in the double. Tony Stewart came closest on the same day in 2001 when he was sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte. It’s also the only time a single driver has run all 1,100 miles.

The best performance in both races was in 1970, when Donnie Allison won at Charlotte on a Sunday and was fourth at Indy six days later.

Maybe one day

Defending Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan said he daydreams about trying the double himself.

“I say it jokingly, but I think I would have a hard time,” Kanaan said in Arlington on Tuesday when he stopped by to promote the race and the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in two weeks. “The way Kurt did it, he’s with a very good team. I wouldn’t say no. But it has to be a proper program. I can’t just show up.”

Kanaan races for Chip Ganassi in IndyCar. Ganassi has two Sprint Cup teams, for Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray.

“I asked Chip if I could do the double one day,” Kanaan said, grinning. “So we’ll see. Trying to convince him of that.”

Series updates

Sprint Cup

Johnson drought: It has been a long time since Jimmie Johnson has gone 12 races to start the season without a win. In fact, it’s been since 2003, his sophomore season.

Charlotte sweeps: Seven drivers have won the all-star race and the 600, most recently Kurt Busch in 2010. The others: Darrell Waltrip in 1985, Davey Allison in 1991, Dale Earnhardt in 1993, Jeff Gordon in 1997, Jimmie Johnson in 2003 and Kasey Kahne in 2008.

Nationwide

The 54: Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 Toyota hasn’t finished worse than fifth this year. Kyle Busch has won twice in it, and Sam Hornish Jr. took it to Victory Lane last week, giving it an average finish of 2.6 in eight starts.

Camping World Truck

Toyota streak: Toyota has won six straight races, starting with last November’s win at Phoenix. It matches Toyota’s longest win streak.

NHRA

Funny Car: Robert Hight won for the third straight time last week at Atlanta, edging teammate Courtney Force. For Force, it would have been the 100th win by a female in NHRA history.

Massey win: Fort Worth’s Spencer Massey earned his 15th career victory in Top Fuel. He moved to fifth in the standings.

12 Years since Ford has won at the Coca-Cola 600. Mark Martin did it that year in a Jack Roush car, the fourth of four consecutive wins in the event for the organization.

Quotable

“I hit it hard. I blew it bad. Sorry, guys. I can’t believe that happened. We had the best car here by far. Great, great car.”

— Kasey Kahne, in radio communication to his team after contact with the wall at the Sprint Cup All-Star race Sunday.

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

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