January 30, 2014 | By Tom Surber
Busch Closer To Landing Indy 500 Ride
NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch, who completed the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program during a test last May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, believes his chances are “70 percent” that he’ll have a ride for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25.
Busch, who would also compete in that evening’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, would join Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and John Andretti as the only drivers to run both events in the same day.
“There have been a lot of green lights,” Busch said. “It continues to grab traction. I thought during the off-season, it was dying down because people were away for Christmas and the New Year’s break. Since then, it’s picked back up again. I’m excited about it. I’m looking at it: Is this a dream come true or is this a business opportunity? When you talk to guys like Michael Andretti, you just want to push away the business side and do it for the love of the sport.”
Busch, who completed his Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program with a top speed of 218.210 mph in an Andretti Autosport car, joined Tony Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Although Busch believes he’s inching closer to driving in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” nothing is certain.
“There are different hurdles to overcome whether it’s on the scheduling side, the financial side or the team orchestration side,” Busch said. “I have to talk to Charlotte Motor Speedway about their schedule (Coca-Cola 600) and also understanding IMS and their schedule so that I know exactly what has to happen.
“Gene Haas (co-owner Stewart Haas Racing) has given me his approval, but at the same time he says he doesn’t want the Cup effort sacrificed. That (NASCAR Sprint Cup) is our focus (because) of the millions he has invested into the full season and I don’t want to lose track of that. We don’t want anything to go haywire. Then there’s track time for an open test date up there (because) I’m not a full-time team. There’s a side of things that we’re going to have to ask for some concessions. I don’t want to create too much of a wake and upset any of the other teams that are committed and have value invested in the IndyCar Series.”
In addition to those issues, Busch believes his physical readiness for such a long day of racing would depend on a new workout regimen.
“If I commit to this and the sooner the better, that same day I’m hiring a trainer because there would be a full four months of physical preparation that would have to go into doing the two races in the same day,” Busch said.
Busch completed the IMS Rookie Orientation Program last May in which all drivers must participate to compete in Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifying, under the supervision of INDYCAR officials. Busch fulfilled all three phases of the program: 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph.
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for noon Sunday, May 25.
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