A strong run in this year’s Indianapolis 500 has had a profound and very positive impact on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Kurt Busch.
Busch, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, had a stunning debut in an open-wheel car, with a sixth-place finish and rookie-of-the-year honors in the Indy 500 back in May. Considering he had never raced anywhere in an IndyCar, Busch’s performance was nothing short of remarkable.
Friday, Busch returned to the fabled 2.5-mile Brickyard with his Stewart-Haas Racing Sprint Cup team, who he will drive for in Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard.
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Busch came back to the historic facility with a new appreciation for the skill required to wheel an IndyCar around the track at 230 miles per hour, and hard-won respect from local race fans, who embraced his efforts back in May. You could see it in his smile and hear it in his voice that Indy now means something very different for Busch.
What he doesn’t have at the moment is a firm decision on whether he’ll attempt the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 double again in 2015.
"We haven’t had talks yet," Busch said about the possibility of being back in the Indy 500 next year. "After the month of May and winding down through June, and just like today coming back to the Speedway, there’s different moments of when it tells me, ‘Yes, let’s go do it again.’ Then there’s moments of, ‘Just wait, let things pan out.’ My focus right now honestly is that 41 car and The Chase that’s coming up."
Busch said he expects to address the topic before too long.
"I think we’ll have some talks again," he said. "We’ll have some other dinners and time to hang out. We’ll see what presents itself. I mean, I’m more than willing to jump back in and try to do a full 1,100 miles because that’s the objective, to complete all 1,100. It’s something special and it’s a target, and it’s only been achieved once. It’s very difficult to do."
Whether he ever takes the 500 again or not, though, there’s no question that racing at Indianapolis in the month of May deeply touched Busch — and local race fans — for all the right reasons.
"I was at a Chevy autograph session this morning and another stage appearance, and the Indiana natives and a lot of the Midwesterners were real excited as stock car fans to come to Indy and watch me race," said Busch. "It’s been great to receive the congrats and the respect from the Midwesterner fans."
The Indy 500 really was a game-changer for Busch.
"What I saw here in the month of May was very different than what it is here in July and August," he said. "It’s their big backyard party. It’s their moment to show the world what Indianapolis means and what this oval has always meant to them. And so the people make this Speedway what it is and it’s very special. I’m glad that they were rooting me on. And even when I got back to Charlotte, the crowd was there, ‘Hey, our NASCAR boy went up there and did good and we’re proud of him.’ That was a special feeling."
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