INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis is quickly becoming Kyle Busch’s favorite racing venue.
Ten years ago, he met his future wife, Samantha, at the 2.5-mile oval.
Last year, he pulled off a rare sweep by winning both poles and both races on Brickyard 400 weekend. It’s the last time Busch celebrated a Cup win and now that he’s back at the historic 2.5-mile oval, he doesn’t want to wait until next September to make a return trip. He’d like to add a May stop to his already full 2018 schedule ad attempt the fabled double bill of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600.
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”I had it (a deal) done last year, sold it and everything,” Busch said when asked about competing in the Indy 500. ”I had a boss that said no.”
Busch, the 2015 Cup champion and two-time defending Brickyard champ, hasn’t given up on his dream; he’s just putting it on hold temporarily this weekend as he chases history and tries to end a 12-month victory drought.
He couldn’t have picked a better place to come. Over the past two years, Busch has been the most dominant stock-car driver at Indy.
The two-time defending Brickyard champion has led 168 of the last 189 laps here, including a record 149 out of 170 last year when he won from the pole. He also won the 2015 and 2016 Xfinity Series races from the pole, giving him four consecutive wins at Indianapolis.
When the track opened for Xfinity practice Friday, Busch’s car was near the top again – even with restrictor-plate motors.
Busch still had the third-fastest car in the first two practice sessions, turning a fast lap of 166.162 mph as overcast skies cooled the track. The Xfinity qualifications and race will be held Saturday, the same day Busch and the other Cup drivers also will take their first laps.
Even as Busch talks about winning an unprecedented third straight Brickyard, the thrill of taking a shot in IndyCar’s marquee race – and trying the 1,100-mile Memorial Day weekend double – remains a major attraction for the 32-year-old driver.
”I thought I had a great opportunity to do it (in May), but I’m kind of glad it didn’t come together because (Fernando) Alonso kind of stole the headlines the last time it was done,” Busch said. ”It would be fun. It would be a unique opportunity. The thing that scares my boss is that I’ve never driven those cars.”
If he goes for it, Busch would start the day in Indianapolis for the 500 then fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the 600-mile Cup race. His brother, Kurt Busch, tried that in 2014 and finished sixth at the Indy 500 before a blown engine knocked him out of the NASCAR nightcap.
It would be the first time brothers have attempted the marathon.
Alonso had never driven an IndyCar or even on an oval before May. Yet the two-time Formula One champ spent most of May’s race in contention before a blown engine knocked him out with 20 laps to go.
Busch thinks his experience – and success – at the Brickyard would make him just as competitive.
In 12 Indy starts, Busch has 10 top-10 finishes. He is one of four Cup drivers with at least two Brickyard titles and last year joined seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson as the only back-to-back race winners. Johnson won in 2008 and 2009.
Somehow Busch has fought through the sweltering mid-summer temperatures and found the secret to winning on this narrow, low-banked oval where passing is tough.
Busch’s success puts him in rare company.
The only driver in track history to win four straight races at Indy is Michael Schumacher, the former Formula One superstar who won each U.S. Grand Prix from 2003-06 on the speedway’s road course. Nobody else has captured three consecutive major race titles at Indy, and if Busch extends his winning streak to five on Saturday, it would break Schumacher’s record.
A win Sunday would also give Toyota its 100th Cup victory, assure Busch of a spot in NASCAR’s playoff and give Joe Gibbs Racing its second win in two weeks after starting the season 0 for 17.
”It’s pretty cool to come in here and have a chance to go for three in a row,” Busch said. ”But it’s frustrating that it’s been 365 days since we’ve won one of these things.”
And he would rather not have to wait even longer to give Indy a shot next season.
”I’m good,” he said when asked if he’d trade his Brickyard wins for an Indy 500 crown. ”I’d just like to have a shot to go and earn it myself.”