Kurt Busch has a better feel for IndyCar learning curve now

Kurt Busch goes up in flames

Kurt Busch “joined the club," in Tony Kanaan’s words, with a crash in practice at Indianapolis this week.

He hit the wall in Turn 2 on Monday, leaving his car in pieces and flames.

Now the NASCAR driver will have to race in a backup car Sunday when he attempts to run both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Only 13 times has the double been attempted, and only six times on the same day. (The races were on separate dates from 1961 to 1973).

For Busch, it’s his first try.

And it’s probably why he crashed. His NASCAR mentality, to settle in for a long run, allowed the car a split second to get away from him.

“I was starting to feel comfortable," he told the Indianapolis Star. “Maybe that’s where I made the mistake of letting my guard down or settling into that long-run type of mentality, whereas with an Indy car, you have to be on edge. You have to keep track of where you are at all times and the adjustments in the car."

His Sprint Cup crew chief, Daniel Knost, winced when he saw the crash.

“Nobody wants to see a crash, especially with your driver, but I texted him afterward and he seemed to be in good spirits. He sounded like he was feeling good," Knost said. “At that point, you almost go, ‘OK, it is what it is, and it kind of stinks, but we’ve wrecked cars, and that’s just part of racing. It happens.’

“As long as he feels OK from it, then you just put it behind you and move forward."

That was Busch’s thinking.

“As a rookie there’s things that you learn and put it up on the edge and get away with, and there are times when it will bite you," he said. “Maybe I didn’t keep up with keeping the car underneath me," he said. “Trying to get into that rhythm and feel other things around you, and I got behind on my adjustments in the car."

Busch has plenty of skill for the attempt. He just needs the practice, which he has been trying to cram in for three weeks, and it seemingly paid off when he barely missed the “Fast Nine" qualifying session.

But he’ll still start 10th on the Indy grid, which is not bad for a rookie.

No one has won both races in the double. Tony Stewart came closest on the same day in 2001 when he was sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte. It’s also the only time a single driver has run all 1,100 miles.

The best performance in both races was in 1970, when Donnie Allison won at Charlotte on a Sunday and was fourth at Indy six days later. Dallas Star-Telegram

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