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Busch Hits 218 At Indy; Interested In Next Year's 500 UPDATE
Team owner Michael Andretti poses with his driver-for-a-day Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch breezed through the three speed phases of the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program that all drivers must participate in during an extended session in the Chevrolet-powered No. 1 DHL Andretti Autosport car that reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive in practice starting May 11 for the Indy 500 on May 26.

He returned the car to pit lane with nary a smudge as his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew, which flew in for the event, checked out the Dallara chassis (more than half the weight of a Cup car and about 50 mph quicker around the 2.5-mile oval).

Busch has made 12 stock car starts at the Brickyard, with a best finish of fifth in 2001, but nothing compared to this ride. He posted an official top lap speed of 218.210 mph on 83 laps in the rookie program that consists of 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph. In addition, INDYCAR officials monitor car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern.

"I do notice when I'm in the (Indy) car that you just have less time to look at things," said Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion. "Halfway through that second session we did, that's when things started to slow down (mentally). So you just have to graduate with the car and with the comfort level. It will help me respect the track more for an IndyCar.

"The biggest thing I see when I watch the Indianapolis 500 is how far ahead you have to anticipate. When you are the only car out there, it's fine. But when you throw other cars out there, there's no way to simulate that. It was a treat that couldn't be equaled."

Announcement of the session gave rise to Busch potentially doing "the double" in 2014 -- competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Cup race the same day -- and he is eager to be the fourth to attempt it. By passing the formal rookie test, Busch is eligible to participate in practice and qualifying for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

"There are faster planes and faster helicopters these days," he said of the midday and early evening starts of the races in Indianapolis and Concord, N.C. "If we could get the times sorted out, you would have more interest in sponsors and drivers and owners wanting to do the double. That's what fans want to see.

"There's the mental and physical side of it and then the business side of it," Busch said. "It could be a 13-month project. It's something to try to stretch yourself to the limit in motorsports."

05/09/13 Kurt Busch suggested he isn’t ready to race in the Indianapolis 500 after his test Thursday with Andretti Autosport, but he showed he’s not too far off.

Busch completed all three phases of rookie orientation at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is eligible to compete in this year’s event if he chose.

Busch dismissed the notion of running this year’s Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.

“It’s very difficult to run at your peak performance for the Coca-Cola 600,’’ Busch said. “A driver can race here at Indianapolis, to give a full 500 miles that needs to be the end of his day. To run 600 miles after that, you’ve got to pace yourself. I honestly think that I really wouldn’t be able to do it this year just with stamina. I need to get more comfortable in the IndyCar because a day like today, I’m white-knuckled, my hands were tense and firm and that was only after 10 laps.

“There’s the mental side, the physical side, there’s the sponsorship side that has to come together. Michael (Andretti)wants to do it but they’ve already got five cars committed to trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year.

“I think the proper thing is to go out and experience this car at another oval track and get into a race and experience what the buffeting is and the movement of the car when all the downforce changes.’’

Busch ran 83 laps Thursday with a top lap of 218.210 mph in defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car.

“The day went as good as we could have expected,’’ Andretti said. “He just drove exactly the way we wanted him to do it.’’

Busch and Andretti both are represented by John Caponigro, but their connections go deeper. Andretti said that they had conversations when Andretti considered starting a NASCAR team last year before he was unable to find enough sponsorship.

“When John came to me about this idea, I thought, yeah, let’s figure out how to make this work,’’ Andretti said.

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