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Kurt Busch Completes Rookie Test At Indianapolis

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 10 2013

Michael Andretti and Kurt Busch teamed up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week as Busch embarked down the road to doing 'The Double'. (Photo courtesy of Furniture Row Racing.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Kurt Busch completed the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program during a test Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion reached a top speed of 218.210 mph in a car without fenders.

“Pinch me, I am like a kid in a candy store,” Busch said after taking a short break to have setup changes made to the car. “To drive an Indy car owned by Michael Andretti at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the month of May is pretty special.”

What was also special for Busch was having his Furniture Row Racing Sprint Cup crew, along with team owner Barny Visser and general manager Joe Garone, make the trip to Indianapolis to watch him perform. The team was on its way to Darlington, S.C. from Denver, Colo. for Saturday night’s Southern 500.

“When our Furniture Row guys showed up it made a great day even better,” said Busch.

But Busch is taking a cautious approach toward participating in “The Double” of racing – the IZOD IndyCar Series’ 97th Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 26.

“I need to get more comfortable in the Indy car because on a day like today, I’m white-knuckle, my hands were tense and firm, and that was only after 10 laps,” Busch said after exiting a car provided by Andretti Autosport. “And so then it started to settle in.

“So there’s the mental side of it, there’s the physical side, there’s the sponsorship side that has to come together. And right now with Kyle Moyer (general manager, Andretti Autosport) looking sideways at Michael (Andretti)…Michael wants to do it, but they’ve already got five cars committed to trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year.

“To crawl, then walk, and then walk and then run, I think the proper thing is to go out and experience this car at another oval track and get into a race and experience what the buffeting is and the movement of the car when all the downforce changes.”

Busch completed the mandatory Rookie Orientation Program under supervision of INDYCAR officials. Busch fulfilled all three phases of the program around the 2.5-mile oval – 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph.

Busch totaled 83 laps in the No. 1 DHL Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone that reigning IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive in the Indy 500. Team-owner Andretti and driver James Hinchcliffe – winner of two of this season’s four races – assisted Busch during the test.

“Today was an ideal day,” said the versatile Busch, who recently tested an Australian V8 Supercar Holden Commodore during a promotion at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better as a rookie to come to Indy and have the track prepped the way it was and have the perfect weather conditions.”

Busch began the test knowing that driving into Turn 1 at IMS in an open-wheel Indy car would provide different challenges from what he’s experienced in a Cup car.

“Today, that was the biggest transition,” said Busch, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet SS fielded by team-owner Visser. “When you want to step into the real world – that’s to hold it wide-open – and when you do that, your brain says, ‘Wait a minute, you’re not supposed to do that because in the stock car how heavy it is and the lack of downforce.’ So when I did hold it wide-open, I was off on my line, actually apexed too early, had a little extra wheel input on exit and it changed the game. But then once I left it on the floor, the car started to come back to me and the pace started to slow down in my mind, even though the pace kept getting quicker with lap time.”

Andretti – who qualified for 16 Indy 500s between 1984 and 2007 – was thrilled with Busch’s performance.

“Well, I think it was good for us,” said Andretti, who finished an Indy 500 career-best second to Rick Mears by 3.149-seconds in 1991. “We got our first laps in May, so that’s always nice. We wanted to do it in the proper way, and we wanted to do it in the proper way mostly for Kurt. We wanted him to have a real experience. We wanted to make some changes that he could feel and start to understand a little bit more about what to expect with the car in different conditions and different setups. I think we were able to achieve that.

“I would say the day went as good as we could have expected. Kurt did exactly what I thought he was going to do. He just drove exactly the way we wanted him to do it. He gave great feedback, right on pace, built up to it nice and steady, didn’t do anything stupid, which we knew he wouldn’t, and it was a really good day.”

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 10 2013
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