The 2004 NASCAR champion and driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS in the Sprint Cup Series drove an Andretti Autosport Indy car Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) where he completed 83 laps on the famed 2.5-mile oval and reached a top speed of 218.210 mph.
“Pinch me, I am like a kid in a candy store,” said Busch after taking a short break to have setup changes made to the car. “To drive an Indy car owned by Michael Andretti at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the month of May is pretty special.”
What was also special for Busch is when his Furniture Row Racing crew along with team owner Barny Visser and general manager Joe Garone made the trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch him perform. The team was on its way to Darlington, S.C. from Denver, Colo. for Saturday night’s Southern 500.
“When our Furniture Row guys showed up it made a great day even better,” said Busch.
Before Busch reached the 218.21 mile-per-hour speed in the No. 1 DHL Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestrone that reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive in the Indy 500, he fulfilled all three phases of the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program: 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph.
Busch’s impressive performance was not a surprise to Andretti.
“Kurt did exactly what I thought he was going to do,” stated Andretti. “He just drove exactly the way we wanted him to do it. He gave great feedback, right on pace, built up to nice and steady. He didn’t do anything stupid, which we knew he wouldn’t. It was a really good day.”
The question begged by members of media: Was the test session a prelude of Busch participating in “The Double” – the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday May 26?
"I wouldn't be able to do it this year just with stamina, not giving my all to my team in Charlotte," said Busch. “But it could be the beginning of a 13-month journey to get prepared for the double. I need to get more comfortable in the Indy car because on a day like today, I’m white knuckle, my hands were tense and firm, that was only after 10 laps. I think the proper thing is to go out and experience this car at another oval track and get into a race.”
Busch’s biggest challenge at IMS was driving into Turn 1 in an open-wheel car compared to his Sprint Cup stock car.
“That was the biggest transition,” Busch noted. “When you want to step into the real world, that’s to hold it wide open, and when you do that, your brain says, ‘Wait a minute, you’re not supposed do that because in the stock car how heavy it is and the lack of downforce.’
“So when I did hold it wide open, I was off my line, actually apexed too early, had a little extra wheel input on exit, and it changed the game. But then once I left it on the floor, the car started to come back to me and the pace started to slow down in my mind, even though the pace kept getting quicker with lap time.”
Busch’s Indy car ride at IMS followed a test session on April 23 in an Australian V8 Supercar at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. In past years he has driven a Daytona Prototype car in the Daytona 24-hour sports car race, qualified an NHRA Pro Stock car in a national competition and tested Bobby Rahal's Indy car in 2003 at the Sebring, Fla. road course.