Double done: Kurt Busch’s great day ends with frustrating night
With a stunning sixth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 already under his belt earlier in the day, Kurt Busch tried to end his historic double attempt with another strong finish in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It was not to be, though, as a blown engine three-quarters of the way through the NASCAR race derailed Busch’s plans and put an early end to his evening.
In truth, Busch had not looked particularly strong in practice or qualifying earlier in the week, but was still optimistic heading into NASCAR’s longest race.
From the outset of the race, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had his work cut out for him.
Busch had to start at the back of the Coca-Cola 600 field because he missed the mandatory pre-race driver meeting.
On Lap 50, Busch was up to 26th, but with no cautions for the first 108 laps, Busch and a whole bunch of other top drivers went a lap down. In Busch’s case, he had already been lapped by the 58-lap mark.
After that first caution, Busch was one of eight drivers to take the wave around and get back on the lead lap.
On Lap 148, just after he went a lap down again, a caution flew for debris. Busch got the Lucky Dog to get back on the lead lap a second time.
Gradually, as the race went on, Busch’s Stewart-Haas Racing crew began to get his No. 41 Chevrolet dialed in. By Lap 175, Busch was up to 14th, about 6 seconds off the lead.
Then it was deja’ vu all over again, as Busch got lapped only to get a second Lucky Dog after a Lap 223 debris caution. The timing was fortuitous, as it appeared Busch had a tire rub when the yellow came out.
But on Lap 252, Busch radioed to his crew that he had dropped a cylinder in his car. "Only a matter of time before she lets go," Busch said over the radio.
Then on Lap 273, his motor let go, and with it, his chance to join his boss, Tony Stewart, as the only man to ever complete the full distance in both races, the same day.
"We were hanging on. We were going to muscle it out," Busch said. "Then it’s like the car swallowed three cylinders at once. The engine let go. Those things happen in motorsports. It was a good battle, though. I was hoping to do 1,100 miles today."
All things considered, Busch was as upbeat as he could be.
"I can’t let what happened here dampen the mood on what happened up in Indianapolis," Busch said. "But it’s not just one individual. It takes a team. The Andretti Autosport guys gave me a good car and the Stewart-Haas guys give me a great car every week. We just had a monkey on our back down here in NASCAR this year, and that kind of motor failure symbolizes the struggles we’ve had."
Busch’s Indy run helped curb his disappointment.
"Today is a memory that I’ll have forever," he said. "It’s a challenge I put forth to myself. I enjoyed it. I love racing at Indy."