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NASCAR Garages Will Be Watching The Indy 500

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 22 2014

Kurt Busch will have a big rooting section in North Carolina when he drives in the Indy 500 on Sunday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

CONCORD, N.C. – When Kurt Busch squeezes into his Indy car on Sunday to compete in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, he will not squeeze in alone. With him will be a NASCAR garage full of drivers and team members.

That became evident Thursday when the garages opened for business at Charlotte Motor Speedway as practice got under way for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Driver after driver stood in front of microphones and notebooks and talked about the respect they have for Busch – not always the most popular driver in the Cup garages – as he attempts to do the Indy-Charlotte “Double”.

“My take on what Kurt is doing as a race fan is that it’s awesome,” Sprint Cup driver Jamie McMurray said. “I can’t wait to get up Sunday morning, turn the Indy 500 on and watch Kurt’s day. We can all remember Tony (Stewart) and Robby Gordon did it and watching those guys to see how their races goes, them getting on the helicopter – Kurt is actually flying on the plane that I fly on every weekend back down here – and then to show up and race here. I’m excited about it, and I hope other fans – whether you’re and IndyCar fan or a NASCAR fan – are excited to watch his whole day as well. I think it’s really cool what he’s doing.”

In the past, some have criticized those who have done The Double. Said it detracts from either the 500 or the 600 or both.

This year, however, in the CMS garages at least, the thought is the tide of publicity that Busch is generating will lift a lot of boats.

“It has to bring some interest just from a standpoint that it’s a big challenge from both worlds,” Kevin Harvick, Busch’s teammate at NASCAR’s Stewart-Haas Racing, said. “Whether it’s coming over here and just racing this race or just going over there. I mean they are huge races. I think it’s good for both series that he is doing it bringing a lot of attention both ways.”

Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he knows where he will be when the green flag drops at the Indy 500 on Sunday morning.

“I can’t wait to watch and pull for him,” Earnhardt said. “He’s representing the entire sport. Whether he knows it or not, he’s got a lot of people, drivers, crew and just about everyone on the infield pulling for him

Kurt Busch got a little to comfortable in his Andretti Autosport Dallara on Monday. The result was a wrecked Andretti Autosport Dallara.

to do well because he is representing all of us. He’s definitely put in a strong effort to make a different impression. I have to hand it to him. He’s done a lot of work.”

Busch will be the fourth driver to do Memorial Day Weekend The Double. Doing it ahead of him were Robby Gordon, John Andretti and his current Cup car owner; Tony Stewart.

All of the previous The Double Doers talked afterward about the demands of driving 1,100 miles in one day – and the logistical hurdles that come with racing at tracks located over 500 miles away from each other. Stewart had to be helped from his car in the Charlotte night race.

Busch talked about the physical preparations he has under gone to get ready for his rides.

“Upper body strength is important in both,” Busch, who will be driving an Andretti Autosport car, said. “Core strength is what I have worked on these last six months. It’s to be able to use your core to not over exert your arms or to have your legs cramp up. It’s to be as prepared as you can be for the marathon portion of this. The demands from driving both cars are the same on the body it’s just I have to be ready to do 1100 miles. Running to the gym, keeping my heart rate elevated while I’m there, doing martial arts type of activity in a boot camp style formula to where as it keeps your heart rate up for that full hour and then run back home from the gym.

“This week it’s been great to add in the full nutrition portion of the program to come in on the first part of the week with low carbs maintaining the protein. It will start tomorrow night with loading up on carbs and almost being at the big fighter weight that you would expect to see a guy with the extra weight just so that I know that I am going to burn all that off on Sunday.”

Harvick said his biggest concern for Busch would be the different styles of driving he will have to employ in two cars that have zero in common other than they use internal combustion engines and role on round wheels.

“I think the biggest challenge and we haven’t specifically talked about it from anything from a race car standpoint is just knowing what car you are in and remembering how to drive that particular car because they are so different,” Harvick said. “I hope he has a good weekend he has done a great job in Indy. I know he has the accident this week, but I think that is not a bad thing either.”

Correct, Busch said.

“When I made the mistake on Monday it was because I just started to tell myself ‘Settle in, get into this 500 mile rhythm and know that you have 600 miles later on.’ It was the set-up that I had from the previous Thursday where I was the most comfortable in drafting practice,” Busch said. “I made some adjustments inside the car, didn’t stay on top of Turns 1 and 2. The south end of the track is different than the north end of the track there. The wind angle was at the most different, awkward angle that I’ve had during the whole month of May. Turn 2 bit me. I’m glad that I experienced it. I might sound stupid, by staying that I’m glad I wrecked at 220 mph, but if I didn’t put myself in that position I would have done that on Sunday possibly 50 laps into the race. That is how you have to advance through life is to learn from your mistakes.”

Despite the difficulty and, yes, danger of doing The Double, there are some in the Cup garages this weekend who actually sound jealous of Busch.

Jimmie Johnson, a five-time Cup champion, was asked if he thinks Busch’s Double would inspire others in NASCAR to attempt it.

“I think so,” Johnson said. “At least I know there has been for myself in discussions with many teams on the IndyCar side. Timing was an issue at one point in time and the engine manufacturer situation that I was dealing with when I had the green light from my wife to go do it. So, there are always some challenges but it might. And I hope that it does. I think it’s great for motorsports to see this happen.”

Then there was Cup driver Clint Bowyer, who watched a video of Busch’s practice crash at Indy on Monday. Don’t look for a Clint Bowyer Double, he said.

“No, that doesn’t look one iota fun at all,” Bowyer said. “That was a hard hit and just from looking at it –those things blow apart and you see us wreck and it kind of flat sides the right side and you’re like, ‘You’ll be okay.’ You see them things blow apart and you’re like, ‘Man, is he even going to get out?’ No, it doesn’t look like fun, but it’s fun to watch.”

Busch got very serious Thursday when asked about his Double. Especially when asked if he thought others might be tempted to do a Double themselves.

“I’m a racer,” Busch said. “Tony Stewart is a racer, Robby Gordon is a racer and John Andretti is a racer. This is a true test of what your commitment level is on being a racer. There are so many practices back and forth, the travel, the logistics’; the fun meter is pegged right now. I’m having a blast doing it; you just have to know it comes with a lot of hard work. I encourage others to try it out.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 22 2014
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Ferris says:

    Go get ’em Kurt.

    I’ll be pulling for you in both races. To win either race would be extraordinary, both races superhuman but I think a top 10 in each is doable.

    Keep your nose clean and don’t over drive that Indycar!

    Good luck!!