CONCORD, N.C. (AP) There’s no bank of TV cameras surrounding Kurt Busch’s hauler, no one monitoring his fluid intake to prevent dehydration, no golf cart waiting to whisk him away from NASCAR practice and off to Indianapolis. This year, Busch is glad to have his focus solely on the Coca-Cola 600.
Busch will start 14th at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night in NASCAR’s longest event. This event is like a lazy Sunday drive compared with the whirlwind of last May, when Busch split time between two of America’s most famous motor sports arenas chasing the double of finishing 1,100 miles at the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600.
”When the month of May was over, it felt like July,” Busch said.
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By most accounts, it was a success. Busch starred at Indianapolis, finishing in sixth place. He was on his way to completing the doubleheader when a blown engine sidelined the No. 41 Chevrolet less than 200 miles from the end.
Busch’s team owner, Tony Stewart, remains the only racer to complete races at Indy and Charlotte on the same day.
Busch was glad with his effort and believes he’s got another try in him – someday.
”It’s something I’d like to possibly do again,” he said.
Busch trained like a decathlete, monitored his diet and stuck to a strict schedule of rest. Mentally, though, he said he wasn’t fully prepared for shuttling back and forth the 600 or so miles between Indy and Charlotte.
”It’s hard to keep up with,” he said. ”There’s a lot of days in the middle of the grind, my alarm would go off in the morning and I didn’t know where I was. I was in the rental motor home in Indianapolis and I thought, `What am I doing here?”’
The Monday following the races, Busch took part in the Indianapolis 500 banquet, he referred to the Indy 500 as last week’s event instead of being run one day earlier. ”That’s when I realized how lost I was on what day it was,” he said.
The fog continued for several more weeks, even as Busch settled back into his NASCAR ride. He felt the toll of G-forces on his body, compressing his spine and back during eight hours of racing. ”I almost felt like I was an inch shorter,” he said.
The thrill of mastering his Andretti Autosport machine was something Busch won’t ever forget. In fact, that success was perhaps the hardest thing he had to handle.
”When you have a successful moment, like anybody else, you want to celebrate,” Busch said. ”And I had to stop, forget that just happened and get into my 600 mile zone for the (Sprint) Cup car.”
Busch hopes to continue a successful season at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. He is 14th in points, but more importantly already has a victory at Richmond that should qualify him for the season ending chase.
Busch has won big at Charlotte over the Memorial Day weekend before, sweeping the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 in 2010. He’s notched two more top fives in the four events since. His believes his training and experience from a year ago should serve him well in Sunday’s long, long event.
”It’s a marathon mentality,” he said.
Racer David Ragan said Busch’s profile improved in the garage among competitors after his gallant attempt at completing both races.
”You respect anybody that can go to other forms of racing and succeed, and certainly do it in one day in two of the most grueling races in America,” Ragan said. ”I was pulling for Kurt to represent the NASCAR community. It’s tough.”
Busch learned several things from his double-day of racing, like using the discipline of IndyCar to help him compete in NASCAR. The biggest thing he took away, though, is where Busch is happiest.
”I’m a stock car guy,” Busch said. ”This is my home. This is what I’ve done my whole life.”