Kurt Busch Double Duty, Weekend No. 1 – There and Back Again

Kurt Busch at Indy
credit: IndyCar Media/John Cote
Weekends are normally a busy time for race car drivers, but the next couple of weekends will be particularly busy for Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kurt Busch, who will attempt to do what only SHR co-owner Tony Stewart has completed successfully – 1,100 racing miles in one day: 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Busch’s “double duty” will take place on Sunday, May 25.

Three drivers have previously attempted “the double” – John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Stewart. Only Stewart completed the feat, finishing sixth in the Indy 500 and third in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte in 2001.

Busch, the 2004 Cup Series champ, began his trek to “double duty” in 2013, completing the Indy 500
Rookie Orientation Program with Andretti Autosport. In March 2014, Busch announced that he would be attempting "the double," with the support of Andretti Autosport on the IndyCar side and SHR in the Cup Series. Stewart offered his support for Busch, saying the match-up with Michael Andretti’s team was a natural.

credit: IndyCar Media/Mike Harding
"It's a great opportunity for Kurt and I fully support him," said Stewart. "He'll have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but he has an overwhelming amount of driving talent on his side. He has a great car owner with Michael Andretti, who's not only an owner, but he's been a driver too. Michael has so much to offer Kurt in terms of knowledge and firsthand experience. It really seems like a natural pairing."

Busch, who made the move to SHR after competing for Furniture Row Racing in 2013, has been logging miles between Indy and his NASCAR duties since late April, when he and 1995 Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve attended an Indy 500 Refresher Test in preparation for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing;” Villeneuve will be racing in his first Indy 500 since his win 19 years ago.

Following the Kansas Sprint Cup Series race on May 10, Busch, who is driving the No. 26 Suretone Honda entry for Andretti, traveled to Indianapolis to begin practice for Indy 500 qualifying while Parker Kligerman shook down his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet at Charlotte. On Saturday, May 17, Busch made two four-lap qualifying runs at Indianapolis before hopping on a plane to Charlotte for qualifying and the Sprint All-Star Race. Busch’s second four-lap run put him 10th in the initial qualifying session at Indy (229.960 mph average), while he qualified 18th for the All-Star Race and finished 11th.

credit: IndyCar Media: John Cote
“I’ve qualified Pro Stocks on the quarter-mile; I’ve done the longest track on the NASCAR circuit (Talladega) but to do four laps here on a 2.5-mile track, that’s a 10-mile run,” said Busch after his first qualifying run.

“That’s the longest I’ve had to focus for a qualifying run. Just the sheer excitement of trusting a car with downforce going down into Turn 1 at 230 is indescribable. Those four laps felt like one; 230 is a totally different game. I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be; the moment of Indy can kind of overtake you. It was a very solid run; I was hoping for more. I didn’t keep up with the adjustments in the car. Those guys at Andretti Autosport have given me a great car.”

Busch’s weekend wasn’t over, however – he headed back to Indy after the All-Star Race for a second day of qualifying, this time for position. 

In a new qualifying twist at Indy this year, Day One (Saturday) qualifying runs locked a driver into the 33-car field, but on Day Two (Sunday), everyone re-qualifies for actual position. 

After his second-day run, Busch will start P12, on the outside of the fourth row, next Sunday at Indianapolis with a second-day average of 230.782 mph. 

There will be a familiar face on the fourth row with Busch. Juan Pablo Montoya qualified his No. 2 Chevrolet for Team Penske in P10, putting him on the inside of that row. Montoya won the 2000 Indy 500 for Ganassi Racing. The 2008 winner, Ganassi's Scott Dixon, lines up between Montoya and Busch. 

Busch is doing “the double” for more than fame and glory – he’s doing it to support the Armed Forces Foundation, hoping to raise awareness for the “invisible wounds of war,” including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Find out more about Busch’s quest and “the double” at www.kurtbuschdouble.com.
Kurt Busch Double Duty, Weekend No. 1 – There and Back Again Kurt Busch Double Duty, Weekend No. 1 – There and Back Again Reviewed by Paula on Sunday, May 18, 2014 Rating: 5