CONCORD, N.C. (AP) Kurt Busch was back in his element Thursday
Busch was in North Carolina for Sprint Cup qualifying – a welcome return to what he knows best.
”I was on the plane ride back and I’m like, `You know, I’m going to be back in my Cup car and be back in the comfort zone,”’ he said.
The former Sprint Cup champion has had a split focus all month as he prepares for Sunday’s Double attempt, hoping to become just the second driver to complete the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. He looked at home Thursday, posting the eighth-fastest speed of 191.042 mph in practice.
That didn’t hold up in qualifying as Busch ended 28th and failed to advance to the second round of the knockout session. Busch’s fastest lap was 189.553 mph, meaning he and his No. 41 team have some work to do before Sunday night much as they have the past few weeks.
While they won at Martinsville Speedway in March to seemingly lock up a spot in the 16-driver championship Chase, Busch stands 28th in Sprint Cup points.
Busch hasn’t finished better than 23rd in the five points races since his win at Martinsville. He didn’t practice for last week’s All-Star race, showing up and running ”cold turkey.” Busch ended up 11th. Some might wonder if Busch’s time at Indy is costing him in NASCAR. He says no.
”I’ve been right there along with the Cup guys,” Busch said
Busch surprised his shop last week when he returned after rain wiped out a practice day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He said team members were startled but ”at the same time they were relieved because they know that we have some work to do,” he said. ”I just wanted to show them my commitment.”
Despite running laps at Indy the past few weeks, Busch has a difficult time explaining the difference between the disciplines.
”I’ve had to keep them very separate,” said Busch, who wrecked during Monday’s practice at Indianapolis and will be in a backup car for the Indy 500.
Clint Bowyer said many in the garage area are rooting for Busch at his try for history.
”I do believe Kurt has an opportunity to pull that off,” Bowyer said. ”That would be something to make all of us in this sport pretty proud.”
Busch is soaking up the experience, and he believes his try can give motorsports a ”shot in the arm.” When it’s over, though, he knows he’ll be ready to try to bring his Stewart-Haas team to the top of Sprint Cup.
”I’ll be back next week and it will be back to normal,” he said.