INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kurt Busch wants to race an IndyCar at Indianapolis.
Just not now.
The 2004 Sprint Cup champion kept Ryan Hunter-Reay’s primary car out of trouble Thursday, topping 218 mph on one of the world’s most prestigious tracks. He became the first driver to pass this year’s rookie test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, likely creating a rumor-filled month of May.
“I really couldn’t do it this year because of the stamina,” Busch said. “My hands were tense and firm and that was only after 10 laps. Michael (Andretti) wants to do it, but they’ve already got five cars committed this year, so I think the proper thing would be to get some experience with this car at another track.”
Time is not something Busch can spare right now.
His whirlwind schedule over the past week has taken him to Indy for NASCAR’s tire test, to Talladega where he ended the race by going airborne and landing on Ryan Newman’s car and now off to Darlington Raceway, where Busch will try to pick up an elusive win that he barely missed out on 10 years ago.
In between all the Sprint Cup obligations, Busch still accepted Andretti’s personal offer to try running an IndyCar on the series’ best-known track. He flew back to town Wednesday with his father, got some advice from former Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr., the 2006 Indy winner, and restarted the talk about attempting “the double” — competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart are the only drivers who have tried to run all 1,100 miles in one day. Stewart had the most success, finishing sixth in Indy and third in Charlotte, N.C., in 2001, and he remains the only driver to ever complete every lap of both races.
Busch might be the next one to try it and has already has three advantages over anyone else who may try to become a late entry in the Indianapolis 500 field: He’s already been fitted for a seat, he has passed his rookie test and he has an interested owner with cars that could be available once the first five qualify for the May 26 race.
“There’s going to be a lot of swirling that goes on after day like today, after reaching 218 on your first day around this place,” Busch said after posting a fast lap of 218.210 mph. “But that doesn’t mean anything because I need more time.”
Andretti acknowledged that’s a possibility later this year, if Busch can work out the details with his Cup schedule.
The five-hour run Thursday couldn’t have gone much smoother, a refreshing change for a driver who has a reputation for wrecking cars and getting angry. It was a warm, humid, overcast day — ideal conditions for Busch to get up to speed quickly. Andretti and two-time IndyCar winner James Hinchcliffe were both around to coach Busch, too. And there were no complaints on either side.
“I think he had a lot of fun today, and we had a lot of fun today,” Andretti said. “But I think he said he would like to run some other ovals before coming here (to race).”
The usual Brickyard trimmings were missing.
Rather than hearing thousands of fans roar as he came down the front straightaway or dozens of engines humming, Busch provided a solo act for a few school children and chaperones touring the track and a handful of die-hard fans placed on the mounds near the infield museum. The speedway officially opens for practice Saturday, with qualifying slated for May 18-19.
Those who watched were impressed.
“Kurt Busch is doing a great job today. Guy is a natural. Think he enjoyed his first flat out lap at Indy!” Hinchcliffe wrote on Twitter after Busch posted an early lap of 214 mph.
What will it take to get him to come back?
A forgiving schedule, a chance to build up his stamina and a little more time in these cars.
“Just getting settled into the open cockpit is a whole different thing when the bugs hit your visor instead of the windows,” he said, acknowledging he had to get used to the feeling of going flat-out through the first turn rather than braking or downshifting. “I couldn’t have asked for anyone else. It was a treat.”