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Kurt Busch to try out IndyCar at Indianapolis
4 May 2013
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch is certainly having an interesting and varied time of it at the moment.
Last week he took part in a car swap promotional event with his V8 Supercar counterpart James Courtney at the brand new Circuit of the Americas race track in Austin Texas. Then this week it was back on duty in his regular #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet Cup car at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
But this coming Thursday will be a whole new experience for the 34-year-old Las Vegas native, as he takes to the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an IZOD IndyCar Series open-wheel Dallara for the first time, after taking up an opportunity from Michael Andretti.
"I have always enjoyed racing at Indianapolis, and when IMS and Michael presented me with the opportunity to test an Indy car prior to opening day of practice of the Indianapolis 500, I jumped at it," said Busch.
"I had the chance to get to know Kurt last year when we were working on another racing project," explained Andretti. "I respect his talent and am happy to give him the opportunity to experience the raw speed of an Indy car.
"It's a unique feel and perspective - it will be totally different than what he is used to driving each week on the Cup circuit," he added.
Nor is this just another PR event: Busch says he's serious about trying out the IndyCar and has more in mind than just a one-off run behind the wheels for the cameras.
"Let's see how the test goes, and then I can look at the opportunities that could be beyond this coming Thursday," he said, hinting that he might be seriously looking at a future run in the Indianapolis 500 down the road.
The Indy 500 takes place on the same day as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but competing in both is not out of the question with a little luck, a prompt finish in Indianapolis, and a fast airplane on standby.
In recent years it's been mooted that former IndyCar stars Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart might be tempted to try exactly that feat. Stewart has already done it twice in the past in 1999 and 2001, as have John Andretti and Robby Gordon. While Busch might not currently have prior experience in open wheel racing, it's not exactly an unprecedented suggestion that he might try for "the double" over Memorial Day weekend at some point in the future.
"Running the Indianapolis 500 would certainly be a highlight, and doing another 600 miles in a Cup car on the same day would make for a special weekend," he admitted. "The Indianapolis 500 is an iconic event and having an opportunity to go through the testing process with Michael and Andretti Autosport, the defending series champions and two-time winners of the race, is pretty cool."
For the time being, however, Busch's focus remains very much on the day job - stock car racing. After a bumpy time of it in 2011 which saw him grow increasingly frustrated, fall out with car owner Roger Penske and leave the Penske Racing team by mutual agreement over the winter, Busch competed in 2012 with the small Phoenix Racing team before finding a new home at Furniture Row Racing for 2013.
He was at Indianapolis this week taking part in a two-day tyre test with the team, part of the preparations for July's Brickyard 400 Cup event at IMS. The track time he had this week will be useful to him for the race itself - unlike next week's IndyCar outing which will bear little or no comparison.
The fastest qualifying lap at Indianapolis in a NASCAR Cup car is 186.293mph (set by Casey Mears in 2004); by contrast, the fastest qualifying lap in an IndyCar is 237.498mph. In the current DW12 model of IndyCar, Ryan Briscoe claimed pole position for the 2012 race with a lap of 226.484mph
"I am looking forward to this test and experiencing IMS at the speeds the Indy cars run," said Busch - and it will certainly be interesting to hear his thoughts on the comparison on Thursday.
The program of events for this year's 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 formally begins with Opening Day on Saturday May 11. Qualifying takes place the following weekend after a full week of practice, and the race is on the afternoon of Sunday, May 26.