Busch Has Hair Raised During Indy Qualifying Run
CONCORD, N.C. – Kurt Busch posted a four-lap average speed of 229.960 mph Saturday during Indianapolis 500 qualifying, narrowly missing the top nine, then calmly told reporters at Charlotte Motor Speedway the effort was “hair-raising.”
“I had three, what I felt, were moments in the car,” Busch said. “If I had, had a fourth, I might not be here right now. I’m glad that we went as fast as we did today. It’s a hair-raising experience to put a car on edge for four laps.”
When Busch left Indianapolis he was ninth quickest, but Juan Pablo Montoya bumped him to 10th with 229.966 mph.
“The first time there to be 10th, 11th 12th, right in the mix, it’s really exciting,” Busch said. “Indianapolis is full of emotions. I don’t know what it is.”
Busch is the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double. Busch’s team co-owner Tony Stewart, John Andretti and Robby Gordon are the other drivers who have executed the strenuous day of running the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend and then the Coca-Cola 600 that night.
For the Las Vegas native, every day at Indianapolis is a learning experience and he knows any little mistake will be costly.
“I expect there to be more competition this year just with the rules being very close and everybody is comfortable with the package they have,” said Busch, who’s driving the fifth car for Andretti Autosport. “I see that lead group of cars 18 deep; maybe even into the 20s.
“We focused the first four days on running with traffic. We got rained out Wednesday. It was nice, though, to go back Thursday and get some race runs. I felt comfortable making passes on guys.
“It’s anybody’s race and we have to position ourselves for not making mistakes and stay away from mistakes on pit road to earn the gentleman’s respect out on the track as far as the protocol. That will be the next step in the first third of the race.”
Busch described the open cockpit as a “whole different experience”.
“We’re not worried about the oddities of driving an open-wheel car,” he continued. “I just said I had a death grip on the wheel and that’s just because I wasn’t relaxing. It’s just a matter of settling in and not putting too many things ahead of the curve.”
Bush pointed to the warm welcome he has received at Indianapolis as his biggest surprise.
“The Indy Car guys have been so supportive and giving me encouragement,” Busch said. “It’s been really neat to see them reach out. I thought it would be more cut-throat from those guys, but we haven’t gotten into race weekend yet. I’m sure that will change.”
Busch’s effort has been receiving support from the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been tweeting about it. Busch also heard that when he reached P3 in qualifying Stewart said congratulations.
“That one hit me hard just with the Indiana feel of everything,” Busch commented. “Everybody has been curious about it. There’s still a lot of anxious moments and the speed is probably the most fun part.”
Busch slept on the plane during the Indy-to-Charlotte trip that consumed a total of 1 hour 31 minutes. When he awoke he saw Charlotte Motor Speedway and that provided him with an easy mental transition from the Indy Cars to the stock cars.
“It’s a visual reference,” Busch explained. “When I fly back up (to Indy) tonight, I’ll just zone back in tomorrow morning when I get up. It’s Indy. We’ll do a baseline run tomorrow morning to do a qualifying run and, hopefully, have a good qualifying run in the afternoon.”
Friday Busch attended a Casino Night that’s mandatory for full-time Indy Car drivers because he wanted to experience it.
“There’s just a lot of Indiana hometown people that appreciate the fact that the Indianapolis 500 is in their backyard,” Busch said. “It’s really neat to feel that small hometown Indiana feel on a grand stage. The world does watch the Indy 500.”
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