Posted: 3:31 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2013
By Jordan Bianchi
In his first laps driving an Indy car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch posted a top speed of 218 MPH Thursday.
In a car owned by Michael Andretti and normally occupied by reigning Izod IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Busch ran a total of 83 laps and completed all three phrases of the rookie orientation program.
If he so chooses, Busch is now eligible to compete in this year's Indianapolis 500.
However, never having competed in an IndyCar race and wanting more experience, he instead is eying a start in the 2014 edition of the Indy 500. The 2004 Sprint Cup champion would like to run the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 doubleheader and admitted that he needs to improve his stamina to accomplish such a feat.
"I wouldn't be able to do it this year because of stamina," Busch said. "Today, I was white knuckled and tense, and that was only after 10 laps. To crawl and then walk and the then walk and run, I think the next step is to go to another oval and another race and see how the car runs in traffic."
Busch's performance left Andretti, who has led more laps at Indy than any other driver without winning the 500, impressed.
"Kurt did everything I thought he would do," Andretti said. "He was on pace immediately and he worked his way through the day. It was a good day."
Calling the experience a "dream come true," Busch acknowledged that there were some kinks to work through early on. But after learning some of the nuances, he had little trouble getting up to speed.
"The open cockpit is a whole different game," he said. "Bugs hit your visor instead of a windshield. You try to ignore those factors and focus on the racing line. As we progressed through rookie orientation, you can see how and why it's developed the way it is.
"To reach 218 on your first day is an achievement, but it's not close to what you need to race. I want to do this the best I can."
Having made 12 starts in NASCAR's Brickyard 400, Busch was obviously familiar with the layout of the 2.5-mile track.
But navigating the oval in a bulky stock car compared to a far more nimble Indy car is vastly different; a lesson Busch discovered as he drove into Turn 1.
"That was the biggest transition," he said. "To hold it wide-open in Turn 1, your brain says 'wait a minute,' because you can't do that in a stock car. When I wasn't wide-open, I turned in too early. I was off line. It changed the game; to go wide-open as the pace got quicker, it started to slow down in my mind."