You'd think a driver raised in a karting environment would want to stay on the road and street circuits that were his breeding grounds, but that's not the case for Nick Bussell, a rookie in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series ranks. The 22-year-old,...
You'd think a driver raised in a karting environment would want to stay on the road and street circuits that were his breeding grounds, but that's not the case for Nick Bussell, a rookie in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series ranks.
The 22-year-old, Ionia, Michigan native is only in his third year driving race cars after starting his racing career at age 12 in karts. This year, driving JL West Motorsports' #21 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone entry Bussell has finished all six races run to date and lies sixth in the season-long points chase at midyear, just 11 points out of third place.
"The season has been fairly good," he confirmed. "It's a challenge in each type of race we've had but I'd say the first half has gone pretty well. My first two years driving cars wasn't a fulltime experience," Bussell related.
He came into the FranAm 2000 series with the 2002 World Karting Association Triple Crown under his belt and was looking to better that experience, after taking titles in 100cc clutch, 125cc shifter and 100 Spec Can karts.
Bussell's first year in a racing car went pretty well, as he took one pole position, finished fourth in another race and was tenth in the season-long standings. He was expecting more in his second full season, but with the series in turmoil Bussell did only the first races in a renamed North American Formula Renault Championship, spending the balance of the year preparing to make his Menards Infiniti Pro Series debut.
"I didn't know what to expect when I came to the Pro series," Nick said. "I had nothing [in my experience] for comparison. Ovals were not part of my background," making this an entirely new experience. "Racing on ovals for the first time with cars that have a lot more power and racing in traffic on the ovals, it certainly has been a switch in disciplines to the mostly oval Pro series."
One of the reasons he decided to go with the Pro series is its shift in venues from the first few years when the Menards Infiniti Pro Series ran only on oval tracks. This year, for the first time it has both road and street courses on the docket, beginning with the St Petersburg race in April, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month and later in the year, on the Infineon Raceway Sears Point and Watkins Glen International road courses.
"I come from a road-racing background and it was nice to know there would be four road-street courses on the schedule. It made it a lot more comfortable for me. I didn't really expect much success on the ovals and, frankly I do prefer the road courses," Bussell stated. "Most people coming up from the karting ranks have a lack of experience in oval racing," as he did.
While four-cornered tracks are still a bit alien to him Bussell did admit he had "a lot of fun at Texas" the second week in June, when he finished fifth. Of his six MIPS races thus far, Bussell has been out of the top-10 only at the first Indianapolis race on Carb Day in May, where he took 15th in a crash-marred event.
Bussell finished sixth at Homestead-Miami Speedway, fifth at Phoenix International Raceway, took third place on the podium at St Pete and was fourth in the second Indy road race.
Maybe he is at a disadvantage by not having a teammate on the JL West Motorsports team because "any time you have teammates it's a beneficial part of the program. Some of the races just didn't go our way, but I do know it's nice to compare data for a confidence level," Bussell said.
Nick Bussell's long-term goal is to be a winner on the IndyCar Series circuit. "I like the Indy cars and have no Formula One aspirations. That's why I chose to come to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series; it's the only step, the next step if you want to get high speed oval experience," he declared.
"The Pro series is the only way and gives the best chance of learning the Indy cars. The cars weigh maybe 100 pounds less and have 200 horsepower less than the Indy cars. You can learn the tracks in this series and that's one of the biggest reasons I'm here."