Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch was going around in circles even quicker than usual on Thursday, as he traded his normal stock car for an open-wheel IndyCar in a test opportunity with Andretti Autosport at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Compared with the sub-200mph speeds achieved by NASCAR at its fastest venues, Busch admitted that it had been a revelation when he'd finally coaxed himself into running speeds topping 218mph at the 2.5-mile oval speedway, which meant psychologically coaxing himself into going flat-out through turn 1.
"Today that was the biggest transition," Busch agreed. "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.
"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," he said. "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.
"I do notice when I'm in the car that you just have less time to look at things," Busch said. "Halfway through that second session we did, that's when things started to slow down [mentally.] You just have to graduate with the car and with the comfort level. It will help me respect the track more for an IndyCar.
"The biggest thing I see when I watch the Indianapolis 500 is how far ahead you have to anticipate. When you are the only car out there, it's fine. But when you throw other cars out there, there's no way to simulate that.
"That open cockpit is definitely a whole different game when bugs are hitting your visor instead of your windshield, that's just the little small differences," Busch added. "And then you quickly try to ignore those and focus on the racing line, where you need to be on the racetrack to find the comfort."
While it's Busch's first experience of a modern DW12 Dallara-Chevrolet IndyCar at Indianapolis, Busch did get a chance to try out Bobby Rahal's Champ Car in 2003 at Sebring International Raceway. This week Busch was at the wheel of IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay's #1 car under the watchful eye of Andretti Autosports CEO Michael Andretti, who had extended the surprise invitation to Busch to come and play at Indianapolis for the day.
"Just an incredible feeling to be able to drive at Indianapolis in May in and Indy car and have the name Andretti on it," said Busch. "It was a dream come true.