Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 26 Suretone Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara, races during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Ind.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
How significant was Kurt Busch’s sixth-place finish in his first Indianapolis 500 on Sunday?
Put simply, it was remarkable, especially given that it was Busch’s first race of any kind in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
With all of Busch’s prior major professional auto racing experience in stock cars, to come into the biggest open-wheel race of the year in a series he’d never raced in, in a car he’d never raced in and with a team he’d never raced with, was eye-opening to say the least.
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To put it into context, of the drivers who’ve won the Indy 500 in the past decade, only three-time winner Helio Castroneves was better in his first 500 than Busch was. Castroneves won the 500 as a rookie in 2001. Of course, Castroneves had been driving open-wheel race cars for virtually all his professional career.
Franchitti is a three-time Indy 500 winner, but he was just 33rd when he made his Cup debut in the 2008 Daytona 500.
Last but not least, three-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. came home 30th in the November 2007 Phoenix race.
Any way you look at it, Busch’s run was of historic proportions, even though an engine failure cut short his attempt to go the distance in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race.
"What an unbelievable experience," said Busch of his Indy run. "I’m sure I had a top-five car. I was on the edge after those two restarts, making adjustments, trying to find [clean] air. All in all, I’m very pleased. To be able to post a sixth-place finish was beyond my wildest expectations."