More than a dream: Kurt Busch to do Indy 500, Coke 600 double
The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ announced Tuesday that he will drive a fifth Andretti Autosport entry in the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, before heading to Charlotte for NASCAR's 600-miler.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch is excited about attempting the Indianapolis 500.
Sean Gardner / Getty Images
By Tom Jensen
Kurt Busch is in a perfect position to realize a dream.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, announced Tuesday morning that he will drive a fifth Andretti Autosport entry in the Indianapolis 500 May 25 and then return to Charlotte Motor Speedway that night to compete in the Coca-Cola 600.
In doing so, Busch will be just the fourth driver to attempt the Indy-Charlotte double in the same day.
Last year, Busch tested for Andretti Autosport and passed his Indy 500 rookie test, hitting an average speed of more than 218 miles per hour. That set up the possibility of actually running the 500 this year.
"That was a whole kid-in-a-candy-store moment of experiencing an open-wheel car at 220 mph," Busch said of his test. "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."
And Busch couldn't be in a better situation to do something that's only been attempted by three other drivers: John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart.
Andretti Autosport will certainly field competitive cars at the Brickyard. and Busch has a huge support system around him at Stewart-Haas: SHR driver and co-owner Stewart has done the double twice himself, in 1999 and 2001; SHR driver Danica Patrick came to the team from the IndyCar ranks; and team co-owner Gene Haas has a deep appreciation of open-wheel cars, and, in fact, is trying to start a Formula One team himself right now.
Kurt Busch (right) stands with Andretti Autosport team owner and former open-wheel driver Michael Andretti.
Busch has shown his versatility, too: In addition to passing his IndyCar rookie test last year, he previously tested an IndyCar at Sebring for Bobby Rahal in 2003. Busch also has competed in the NHRA Pro Stock ranks and had a successful test of an Australian V8 Supercar last year at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
And Busch and Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. used to be teammates at Penske Racing, giving Busch another experienced Indy racer to gain information from.
"I want to pop quiz everyone who's done (the double) to learn as much as I can to just be able to anticipate what's next and have things checked off your list so that you're mentally prepared," Busch said. "I have to thank Stewart-Haas Racing for giving me the chance to fulfill this dream, to challenge myself in motorsports and to do something special in this day and age."
Busch said he expects a highly emotional experience at the Brickyard.
"I went once to watch the '500' with Roger Penske when I first signed a contract with him to drive stock cars," Busch said. "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."