Full practice times for day 9 at Indianapolis
Traditionally, once the chequered flag falls on qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the track falls silent for five days until the Carb Day shakedown. But not this year: instead the drivers were once again at the track and back in their cars for another full day of practice; and for Kurt Busch at least, he probably wishes he hadn't bothered.
A solid day's running for the majority of the field was eclipsed by a big accident for Busch 90 minutes into the five hour session. The #26 Andretti Autosport Honda got loose as it was working through traffic while going through turn 2 at high speed, and when Busch tried to steer into the slide to save the car it ended up taking off into a broadside impact with the outside wall.
It was a hard hit just before the area protected by SAFER technology, meaning that the damage to the right hand side of the car was extensive. A wheel broke free of its tether and bounced across the track in front of traffic, and the #26 itself became an obstacle as it slid back down the track with its rear end briefly engulfed in a fireball.
Fortunately Busch himself was not hurt and he was able to climb out of the car unaided, and he was quickly checked and certified fit to drive by the medical centre. Will Power was lucky to miss running into the accident, while the underside of Pippa Mann's car was damaged by flying debris from the incident and she was forced to sit out the remainder of the session while repairs were made.
"It looked like he almost did too much," was Newgarden's immediate assessment of the accident. "He was chasing it up the wall like he would on a stock car and the thing almost even snapped straight and he almost went straight [into the wall] and then he ended up hitting on the side."
"I was starting to feel comfortable," sighed Busch. "That's when I made the mistake of just letting my guard down or settling into that long run type mentality whereas with an Indy car you have to be on edge. You have to keep track of where you are at all times and the adjustments in the car.
"As a rookie, there's things you learn and put it up on the edge and get away with and then there's times when it will bite you. It's just tough. I thought I was finding a rhythm and settling into that long run type pace and learning the tows and the draft and I didn't keep track of the adjustments of the car.
"Maybe I just didn't keep up with keeping the car underneath me," he mused. "Trying to get into that rhythm and feel other things around you and I got behind on my adjustments in the car."
The Andretti Autosport assessed the damage and found that the safety cell had been compromised, meaning that they will have to use Marco Andretti's spare car as a replacement for Busch. This year's rules allow the team to substitute the car if necessary and still retain Busch's 12th place on the grid, rather than forcing him to start from the back row.