NASCAR driver Kurt Busch said Friday he’s ready to give open wheel racing another try. Specifically Busch is ready to try the grueling feat of racing in two major motor racing events in a single day, the Indianapolis 500 for the IndyCar Series and the Coke 600 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.
It’s an accomplishment attempted by only three drivers prior to Busch: John Andretti, Tony Stewart (who is now Kurt Busch’s NASCAR team owner) and Robby Gordon. Andretti was the first driver to attempt the double in 1994; Stewart twice in 1999 and 2001 and Gordon made four attempts the last coming in 2004.
Busch’s attempt came up just a bit short this past May when engine troubles sidelined him at Charlotte after 271 of the 400 laps. It means that his team owner Stewart is the only driver to date to complete all the laps in both races a total of 1100 miles.
Busch returned to Indy Friday for the first time since May as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series prepares for Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
“This feels like an off weekend now, I only have to do 400 Miles,” Busch joked as he met with the media.
“The way that the month of May went was a tremendous feeling and a sense of accomplishment,” he added turning serious. “I really enjoyed it all the way through with the two race teams, of course, with Andretti Autosport, Stewart Haas Racing, and all the people along the way that helped make that double happen. Still writing thank-you notes. It's incredible the amount of people that we touched and that reached out to us.”
Despite missing the entire 1100 miles, Busch said he is still satisfied with May’s outcome.
“It was a sense of personal accomplishment that I didn't know I'd be able to obtain, and I genuinely have so many unique feelings from the whole experience,” he said. “I mean, 1100 miles was the goal. The second goal was to challenge myself in a different form of motorsports, which is to run the IndyCar. The third objective was to promote motorsports in general on what significance and return on investment motorsports can give a company, whether it's the IndyCar side or whether the stock car side or a unique adventure such as the 1100 miles. The fourth reason was to do it for our troops, do it for the military on Memorial Day weekend and to have all the social media outlets to be able to reach out through and to connect and have a lot of our branches of military pulling for us.
“And the fifth reason,” he added. “Was, hey, let's just do it, let's go out there and have fun and go 220 miles an hour into Turn One and hold it wide open. “
Busch qualified for the Indy 500 in 12th. He avoided several accidents and ended the day in sixth, a stellar accomplishment and one that earned him Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.
“No regrets,” Busch said, “I really enjoyed it. Afterwards it felt like it took a week or two to settle back into the Cup rhythm. But overall to have a plaque to say Rookie of the Year, Indianapolis, to qualify at 230 miles an hour for a four-lap average, that was exciting.”
After reflecting for a moment, Busch admitted that he did have one regret.
“I should have stayed for qualifying on Saturday and tried to stay locked into that Fast 9,” he said. “My objective was to be top 15. We were knocking on the door. We were third fastest when I left and then we got to Charlotte and a loose lug nut made us have to start in the back of the All-Star Race. To do it all over again, yeah, I would love to have a shot to come back on Sunday and go for the pole.”
That thought led to the question; is Busch willing to attempt another double?
“That's been the big question,” Busch said. “ Every day I wake up and like, yes, let's do it again. Then there are thoughts of I finished sixth, that's pretty special. I don't know if I could achieve that result again. “
“And then Andretti will text you, Marco will text you,” he added. “The relationships from the open-wheel side that I opened up whether it's Jimmy Vasser at KV Racing or Ed Carpenter with his race team. It's really unique to talk to a lot of the team owners and other drivers on the IndyCar side to see if it can and will happen again. “
Busch admitted though that nothing formal when it comes to a double in 2015 has come up, so far.
“We haven't had talks yet,” Busch said. “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 added that while there have been no formal talks, he is ready and willing to try and attempt another Indy-Charlotte double in 2015.
“We last year went to -- I don't remember which date it was, and said this has to be our cutoff,” Busch said. “So I think we'll have some talks again. 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 1100 miles because that's the objective, to complete all 1100. It's something special and it's a target, and it's only been achieved once. It's very difficult to do.”