Kurt Busch goes to backup car following crash in Indy 500 practice
Kurt Busch has been cleared and released by the IndyCar Safety Team after walking away from a hard crash in Monday practice.
By Bruce Martin
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For most of his initial time as an Indianapolis 500 driver, NASCAR’s Kurt Busch has had a relative flawless experience. He discovered the opposite of that Monday when he crashed hard into the Turn 2 wall at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Indy 500 practice.
Busch was running in traffic when he came through the South Short Chute between turns 1 and 2. As he exited the corner at speed, the right side of Busch’s Dallara/Honda slammed hard into the SAFER Barrier. Flames flew out of the car from the friction of the impact and suspension pieces flew off the car. As Busch’s crashed car slid across the track in front of oncoming traffic, several cars narrowly missed hitting it.
Busch was able to climb out of his car unharmed and was evaluated by the INDYCAR Safety Team. He was checked, cleared and released from the IU Health Infield Care Center at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His car was towed back to the Andretti Autosport garage in Gasoline Alley where it was determined that the No. 26 is not repairable in time for the Indy 500. Busch will drive Marco Andretti's backup car in the race, and still be able to start 12th -- on the outside of Row 4 -- following a four-lap qualification run on Sunday at 230.782 miles per hour.
“I was starting to feel comfortable,” Busch said. “That’s when I made the mistake of just letting my guard down, or settling into that long-run type 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. Maybe I just didn’t keep up with keeping the car underneath me. Trying to get into that rhythm and feel other things around you and I got behind on my adjustments in the car.”
Crashing a race car before Race Day can be problematic, but the Andretti Autosport crew has until Friday’s Carb Day to completely rebuild the car.
“It’s nice to have it an opportune time,” Busch said. “We still have Carb Day to shake things down and get back in the groove. This created a lot of work for the Andretti guys. I feel bad for that. As a rookie, there’s things you learn and put it up on the edge and get away with and then there’s times when it will bite you. It’s just tough. I thought I was finding a rhythm and settling into that long run type pace and learning the tows and the draft and I didn’t keep track of the adjustments of the car.
“I was 100 percent just working in traffic. Just trying to settle in and not make mistakes and I just made a mistake.”
After a rather flawless month, this was Busch’s first incident of his IndyCar career. But it came on a day when wind gusts were blowing through the Turn 2 area of the race course.
It was the most traffic Busch had run in since last week as Monday’s practice session had all 33 cars in the lineup on course for most of the day.
Roger Griffiths is the director of motorsport development at Andretti Autosport and spoke to FOXsports.com while the damaged car was being inspected in the Andretti Autosport garage in Gasoline Alley.
“Up until this point he hasn’t put a wheel wrong,” Griffiths said. “He has been fantastic to work with. He has done a great job and given us great feedback. Until the car hit the wall there was no indication there was any corner issues. We’re trying to get a much clearer idea what happened.
“Everybody saw the wiggle on the TV and he seemed pretty comfortable in the car up until that point. There was no indication anything was amiss with the way the car was handling. We were just trying to find a nice comfortable race balance for him. We were getting ready to do a nice, long run. We didn’t anticipate any problems.
“We thought we put all the scary stuff behind us when we finished up with qualifying on Sunday.”
There is no good time to have a crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the timing actually isn’t that bad because the team has four full days to fix the car before Friday’s Carb Day – the final practice session before Sunday’s 98th Indianapolis 500.
“We’ll get the car back at the shop tonight, get it apart and do a thorough damage assessment and go from there,” Griffiths said. “Anything is repairable; it’s just how far down do we have to tear it all apart? The tub will be stripped down and we will do some minor repairs there and then we will be good to go.”
Even if Busch had to go to a backup car, he would still start on the outside of Row 4 on Sunday.
Team Penske driver Will Power was immediately behind Busch’s car when he saw it bobble before losing control.
“I saw him wiggle and I got out of the gas and then it wiggled again and it spun,” Power said. “Man, I hate seeing that. I feel bad for Kurt. That does nothing but knock your confidence. It’s easily done on those aprons that can catch the car and it might have caught a nasty gust of wind. If you don’t understand what happened it can kill your confidence.
“I was on the brakes trying to avoid his car but one thing is we were similar speed together, so you have time to watch and be on the brakes while he was sliding.
“The hit was – boom!! And then fire coming out.”
The crash ended Busch’s day at Indianapolis. He will be in New York on Tuesday for media appearances before returning home to North Carolina to “sleep in my own bed” on Wednesday. He will then focus on his Coca-Cola 600 responsibilities before returning to Indianapolis on Friday for Carb Day and then back to Charlotte Motor Speedway later that day to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600.