Kurt Busch Ready for Challenge
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on March 8, 2014 | 3:30 P.M. EST
"It’s an exciting moment to have these next three months lead into Memorial Day weekend and just all the different challenges that come with trying to do 1,100 miles in that one day." (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
LAS VEGAS – Kurt Busch knows running the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 will be a challenge, but it will also be special as he uses the journey leading up to it to help build awareness for the Armed Forces Foundation.
Busch is set to become the first driver in more than a decade to run both prestigious races on the same day after announcing earlier this week he landed a ride with Andretti Autosport for the May 25th running of the "500" and will then hustle back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the longest race on the Sprint Cup Series schedule.
It promises to be an exhausting journey for Busch, who acknowledges the logistics alone of going back-and-forth between Indianapolis and Charlotte are a challenge.
“It’s an exciting moment to have these next three months lead into Memorial Day weekend and just all the different challenges that come with trying to do 1,100 miles in that one day,“ Busch said Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In addition to practice sessions at both tracks over the course of the two weeks, Busch will also have to make qualifying sessions in Charlotte and Indy. A new format for Indianapolis 500 qualifying will take place May 17-18, while the Sprint All-Star Race goes on in Charlotte, adding to Busch’s already complicated itinerary.
But he’s confident with the help of the Andretti and SHR organizations as well as Cessna, which has signed on as a logistical partner, he’ll be in good hands.
"It's over 20 hours of flight time and maybe 22 hours now since they have changed their Sunday qualifying format,” Busch said. “A lot of people, a lot of moving parts. Even with the announcement of IndyCar moving the finale of qualifying to Sunday those are things we just have to roll with. It's whatever it takes to make this happen and we are going to give it our best effort and I'm lining-up as many people as I can to help with it."
Busch will have to ensure his physical well being as well during the odyssey and will have a personal doctor with him throughout the process.
"The training regiment I've been on is a boot camp style martial arts infused sequence three days a week," Busch said. "I try to have Thursdays as a break, which is a travel day to most of our NASCAR events and on Friday, Saturday just long drawn out runs to try and keep the cardio going."
Of course a huge part of Busch’s life these days is his work with the military and the support of troops. He and girlfriend Patricia Driscoll have dedicated their lives to the cause and are advocates of The Armed Forces Foundation.
He believes the huge patriotic backdrop surrounding both races will provide a perfect platform to recognize and salute the country’s military personnel. This weekend in Vegas, Busch had a group of airmen and women from nearby Nellis Air Force base at the track and at his Saturday press conference.
"I'm driving for the military and trying to push the focus around our Memorial Day weekend to recognize our Military in a fashion that has never really been done in a platform like this," Busch said.
State Water Heaters, who will sponsor Busch in the October Charlotte Cup race, is one that will help support Busch’s Memorial Day weekend efforts. The company will donate $25 for every mile he completes over the course of the potential 1,100 that day.
That could be up to $27,500 and that’s to the Armed Forces Foundation,” he said. “I hope that we are able to create a social buzz around everybody jumping in and wanting to donate per mile completed. It could be one penny, could $100 or whatever it maybe. We are going to jump on that with the Armed Forces Foundation staff to create more awareness as well as raise funds for our Military."
While just competing the two iconic races has already generated a stir around the racing community and the sports world, Busch is keeping expectations in check. He fully understands the level of competition he’ll face in both events particularly at Indianapolis, where he’s only turned laps in a single car environment.
However, should he somehow achieve the lofty goal of winning in his first Indy 500 start, Busch says he’s ready to handle any additional logistical issues it would cause.
“I would love to have that problem,” said Busch. “Keep in mind I have zero experience in an Indy Car and this will be the toughest challenge, especially when they drop the green flag.
“I think single car runs when I’m coming up to speed and doing qualifying runs all that should handle it self. But when they drop the green at Indianapolis and 33 cars barrel down into Turn 1 and all that dirty air and the movements of the cars and being able to digest closing rates at 220 mph versus our stock cars that average around 185 mph.”