THE MODERATOR: Welcome everybody to the first Indy 500-related press conference to the year, and we're excited to have Michael Andretti and Kurt Busch join us. We've had an interesting last couple of weeks as we've tried to put this together and a lot of thank yous go to Kurt and his gang, Michael, the entire Andretti Autosport team has done a great job coming together, Chevrolet, Firestone, a lot of folks over at INDYCAR making this happen.
Kurt, first impressions? You spent two days here last week in a Cup car and today was a completely different feel. What are your thoughts?
KURT BUSCH: Just an incredible feeling to be able to drive at Indianapolis in May in and Indy car and have the name Andretti on it. It was a dream come true, and to have, like you said, all the support of the engine, tires and team to put it together, I'm thankful for that chance.
And with the kid in the candy store feel early on, just getting settled in, that open cockpit is definitely a whole different game when bugs are hitting your visor instead of your windshield, that's just the little small differences. And then you quickly try to ignore those and focus on the racing line, where you need to be on the racetrack to find the comfort, and as we progress through the rookie orientation side of it, you can see why that's developed to help drivers get up to speed with the different phases of the mile an hour.
Q. Michael, this has been a whirlwind, you guys are in Brazil, this comes together while you're in Brazil. Talk a little bit about the mechanics and also you have a special relationship with Kurt so it made sense for you to help Kurt do this?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, yeah, we had to put our program up a couple more days, but our guys are used to doing those sort of things, and Kyle Moyer, who runs our team, just got right on it, was all excited about it, and so when the guys are excited about it, they'll go that extra yard, and they did, and they had the car running out there, ran flawlessly, so I was real proud of the team.
As for our relationship, it goes back ‑‑ well, first John Caponigro, who's my agent, manager, friend, is the same with Kurt here, so that's where it started. Last year we were looking at getting into Cup, and we had some good conversations, and it came pretty close.
So that's where that started. And then when John came to me about this idea, I thought, yeah, let's just figure it how to make it work, and that's what we did.
KURT BUSCH: Well, in this day and age everybody wants more with motorsports, whether it's speed, whether it's side‑by‑side passing, whether it's just the whole spectacle that the Indy 500 draws in, and the stock car world our Daytona 500, on what the excitement value is, and when you have extra energy into any race, it makes it more exciting for everybody involved.
So whether it's the owner side of it, the driver side, that gets more intrigue from the sponsors. When you have the sponsors wanting to be involved, it just creates that excitement level, and when you have guys wanting to do the double, they're the ones that aren't the smartest, I guess, because honestly it's very difficult to run at your peak performance for the Coca‑Cola 600.
I mean, a driver can race here at Indianapolis, 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 I wouldn't be able to do it this year just with stamina, just with not giving my all for my Furniture Row team in Charlotte. I need to get more comfortable in the IndyCar because on a day like today, I'm white knuckle, my hands were tense and firm, and that was only after 10 laps.
And so then it started to settle in. So there's the mental side of it, there's the physical side, there's the sponsorship side that has to come together, and right now with Kyle Moyer looking sideways at Michael, Michael wants to do it, but they've already got five cars committed to trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year.
To crawl, then walk, and then walk and then run, 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.
Today was an ideal day. I couldn't have asked for anything better as a rookie than to come to Indy to have the track prepped the way it was and then to have the perfect weather conditions.
Q. Following up on that a little bit, so if I heard you right, if you were considered with the names of Tony Stewart and the others that have done the double and somebody said Kurt Busch, you're somebody that could end up doing the double, that's something you'd like to try to do at some point?
KURT BUSCH: It's hard to answer. There's going to be a lot of swirling that goes on after a day like today. 218 (mph) on your first day is an achievement, but it's not going to get you anywhere when it comes to racing here. If I'm going to do something, I want to do it at the best level that I can, so I need more time. But if my name is mentioned with guys like Tony Stewart and John Andretti and Robby Gordon, it isn't a big feather in the cap, but it's something to try to go and achieve. It's something to try to just stretch yourself to the limits in the world of motorsport, and you have to do it with good teams. You just can't expect to go out there and find success right away when your whole life has been spent in a stock car. You've got to give it time in an Indy car.
Q. Michael, when we talked about doing this you wanted to do a proper test, not a driver swap or a stunt. We went through a full‑on rookie test, and Kurt is licensed and if he wanted to he could come back and run here. Do you want to talk about why that was important for you guys to invest the time and what you learned from taking Kurt through that process versus just coming in and giving him a few laps?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I think it was good for us. We got our first laps in May, so that's always nice. We wanted to do it in the proper way, and we wanted to do it in the proper way mostly for Kurt. We wanted him to have a real experience. We wanted to make some changes that he could feel and start to understand a little bit more about what to expect with the car in different conditions and different setups. I think we were able to achieve that.
I would say the day went as good as we could have expected. Kurt did exactly what I thought he was going to do. He just drove exactly the way we wanted him to do it. He gave great feedback, right on pace, built up to it nice and steady, didn't do anything stupid, which we knew he wouldn't, and it was a really good day.
Q. In NASCAR you drive on Goodyears and here it's Firestone. Is there a big difference?
KURT BUSCH: That's a good question. When I ran at Sebring 10 years ago with a Champ Car, it took laps for the tires to gain temperature and to feel the comfort and the grip level in the car.
Here today Michael is telling me, hey, the tires will have grip right away, go for it, and yet in my mind I'm just still a little bit hesitant because it's an open‑wheel car and I need to ease into gaining the tire temperature.
And then the other thought from my stock car world is any time that I go back out on old tires I know I'm going to be a half a second slower here at Indianapolis, so your brain is taught to, okay, you're on older tires, you know you can't go run that lap time anymore, and then your IndyCar instincts come in, oh, wait, I'm supposed to hold it wide open, and then you've got to trust the downforce and trust the tire. So the Firestones are incredible with they don't drop off, even though this track is very abrasive on chewing up tires.
Q. Can you talk about how wild this week has been for you?
KURT BUSCH: Just being able to do what the schedule is right now is just a dream come true. I'm living the dream of traveling, racing cars. We've been competitive on the Cup side. To come to Indianapolis and to drive for Andretti and to get a rookie test and pass it, the phone is ringing right now, and it feels really good. We'll just keep riding this wave.
Q. Talk about how Turn 1 maybe looks different, feels different than in a Cup car, and did you have to convince yourself you had to go flat?
KURT BUSCH: Today that was the biggest transition. 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 to 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 on 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.
Q. Michael, every May my father reminds me that your father won the Daytona 500. It's an ongoing dialogue that will happen for years and years to come. We also talk about the double, things of that nature. Put your promoter's cap on. You've become a successful promoter in addition to your other accomplishments in Motorsports. Do we have to look at a double? Why can't we look at bringing the best of NASCAR here on a separate date running Indy cars and then taking the Indy guys down to say Daytona, having more of an even field and not asking guys to run 1,100 miles in one day?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I think that sounds great on paper, but the logistics of that happening are almost impossible, unfortunately. It would be really difficult to get, first of all, all the teams to agree on both sides for that to happen, for NASCAR to agree, for IndyCar to agree. It would be so much that you'd have to get logistically‑wise to make it happen that I think it would be pretty tough, but it would be cool if it could actually happen that way.
Q. When you started with Indy car, did you immediately recognize you have to drive a different race line like in a Sprint Cup or is it more or less identical?
KURT BUSCH: Each corner demands a later apex, and so you're hanging it out wider. Right where the marbles would be with a NASCAR car, that's where the right side tires are with the IndyCar and you just do a later apex each of the four corners.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Michael and Kurt and everybody for being here. Hopefully we'll see you back here soon in open‑wheel car.
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