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Busch: 'I'd do the double again'

Kurt Busch completed his maiden Indy 500 in a fine sixth place, but his bid to run the full 'double' was thwarted with engine failure in the Coca-Cola 600.
All eyes were on former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch on Sunday, as he did to do 'the double' by competing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.

By any standards, his showing in his very first Indy 500 was a resounding success, as he brought home the Andretti Autosport #26 car in an impressive sixth place after a completely error-free run in his maiden open wheel race in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

"What an unbelievable experience," Busch said after the race. "It is a dream come true to have an Andretti Autosport car to drive at Indy. I'm sure the car was a top five car.

"I was on edge those two restarts, making adjustments, trying to find air," he explained. "I had to lift a little bit in turn two all day. All in all, I'm very pleased. I can't believe the execution of this team. It's a team effort, not just an individual. To be able to post a sixth-place finish was beyond my wildest expectations."

He certainly got the thumbs-up from team owner Michael Andretti.

"Hats off to him, he did a really good job. He came in here with the right mindset. He came in with a lot of experience, but still coming in with the mindset of a rookie, like I said. Went to school and was a great student," said Andretti,

"You could tell the way he ran the first part of the race he fell back, but you could tell he was learning. When he started feeling confident, he started picking them off," he pointed out. "He told me in the end he thought he had a car capable of doing better, but a rookie driver. I said, 'You have nothing to be ashamed of, you did a great month the whole month.'

"It was a pleasure having him on our team," Andretti summed up. "I think everybody on the team really liked having him on. Maybe we'll do it again sometime."

Busch certainly sounded up for the challenge: "I'd love to do it again. And at the same time, you've got to do it with quality teams. The teams really can make the big difference in all of this. And I have to thank Andretti and I have to thank Stewart-Haas.

"Today is a memory I'll have forever. It was a challenge I put forth for myself. I enjoyed it," he said. "I loved racing up in Indy in front of all the Indiana natives and the Hoosiers. They love their speedway up there. That speedway loves them. That's what I really saw out of that track today. There was a grand stage to stand on and represent NASCAR."

The only man to successfully complete the double back in 2001 was Busch's current NASCAR team owner Tony Stewart, and he posted his praise of Busch's run at Indianapolis on Twitter, saying: "Could not be more proud of my teammate [Kurt Busch]. 6th at Indy 500. Amazing job bud!"

In order to make hos own 'double' bid, Busch needed to race from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, jump into a helicopter to a nearby airport where a private jet was waiting to take him to Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina.

The trip took him just 93 minutes with Busch managing to snatch a 20 minute nap on route while he was loaded up with saline and electrolytes to compensate for the fluids he'd lost in the Indy 500. He had blood pressure checked by the doctor and nurse aboard the Cessna, drank 12 ounces of water and another 20 ounces of liquids including beet root juice, and ate a high potassium and high protein bar, a box of raisins and a little beef jerky.

"I'm feeling good, actually," he insisted at the end of his working day. "My hands are a little sore. My feet are a little sore just from working it. And overall, I can stand here with a smile knowing I gave it my all for six months trying to get to this point."

Busch made it to Charlotte in time to get the #41 car out in track, although he started from the back because the travel schedule had forced him to miss the mandatory pre-race drivers meeting. While he didn't have the paciest car on the track for the race, things were going well - until he suffered catastrophic engine failure with 194 miles remaining to complete the 'double'.

"The motor blew. It acted like it swallowed three cylinders all at once, so it was real slow. It's kind of a shame," said Busch afterwards. "It was a good battle though. I was hoping to do 1100 miles today [but] I can't let what happened here dampen the mood on what happened up in Indianapolis.

"It was really a lot of fun. A lot of preparation, a lot of hard work and a lot of team involvement on the Andretti side and the Stewart-Haas side. It was a dream come true to run at Indy and post a really good finish there ... I'm still really in awe of how well we ran at Indy. Those Andretti guys gave me a good car to do it with."

"All in all, I'm very satisfied," he summarised. "I gave it my all. I trained very hard. I had a lot of people helping out. Thanks to Gene Haas, Tony Stewart, Michael Andretti and this whole group. Everyone worked hard on both sides."

Perhaps the biggest testament to Busch's achievement on Sunday was the fact that after one race in the IndyCar Series, he's now in 23rd place ahead of the likes of Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter in the championship standings thanks to the double points awarded this year for oval events.

By contrast, the engine failure at Charlotte means that he drops to 28th position in the corresponding NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standing. Although he has a race win that should see him through the title play-offs in September, Busch still needs to finish in the top 30 to be eligible and that cut-off is getting awfully close for the 35-year-old from Las Vegas.

Now that the Indy adventure is over, it certainly seems it's time for Busch to get his nose back to the grindstone of the day job.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Kurt Busch`s car after his accident (Photo by: Mike Young for IndyCar Media)
The aftermath of Kurt Busch`s wreck (Photo by: Mike Young for IndyCar Media)
Kurt Busch in pit lane (Photo by: Forrest Mellott for IndyCar Media)
Kurt Busch at IMS (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Kurt Busch with the media at IMS (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Made in America Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 22, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Made in America Chevrolet, arrives from the Indianapolis 500 via helicopter to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500 (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
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2016 Indy 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
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Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]

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