Kurt Busch met with members of the media and discussed attempting to do the double competing in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600.
TALK ABOUT HOW EVERYTHING IS GOING: “It’s good to be at the NASCAR track today and to jump into Sprint Cup practice and just to give credit and acknowledgement and the time back to the 600 portion of all of this. Indy is obviously exciting and new and different and it starts earlier in the month of course as far as preparations. I was on the plane ride back and I’m like you know I’m going to be in my Cup car and be back in the comfort zone and go out for practice on Thursday. That is going to feel fun. I’m really excited about getting in the car today and shaking down the car, making laps, then try to tailor the set-up around finding the right comfort zone that we will need for a full 600 miles.”
DESCRIBE THE CHALLENGE NOW THAT YOU HAVE THAT CONTEXT OF HOW THAT THING PERFORMS AND OF COURSE YOU HAVE THE LOGISTICS INVOLVED AS WELL: “I hope that there is still more to learn and more to experience and there will be on Sunday. It’s still difficult to describe the differences between the two. I’ve had to keep them very separate. I hope if I have the chance to come and see you guys on Friday in Dover after Memorial Day weekend I will have a better explanation. Just like walking through the garage today it takes 20 minutes for me to go sign in and it’s not because of fans and autographs, even though they are there as well.
“When I made the mistake on Monday it was because I just started to tell myself ‘settle in, get into this 500 mile rhythm and know that you have 600 miles later on.’ It was the set-up that I had from the previous Thursday where I was the most comfortable in drafting practice. I made some adjustments inside the car, didn’t stay on top of Turns 1 and 2. The south end of the track is different than the north end of the track there. The wind angle was at the most different, awkward angle that I’ve had during the whole month of May. Turn 2 bit me.
I’m glad that I experienced it. I might sound stupid, by staying that I’m glad I wrecked at 220 mph, but if I didn’t put myself in that position I would have done that on Sunday possibly 50 laps into the race. That is how you have to advance through life is to learn from your mistakes. It was a mistake that I whole heartedly put myself in. It’s because I just started to feel comfortable. I just let my guard down a little bit and that Indy car jumped up and bit me.
“When I came here and ran the All-Star race on Saturday night I jumped in there cold turkey for qualifying. Coming down pit road at 150 mph that is a blast there will never be another day that I came into so many things unprepared. When I got through with the qualifying lap here I’m like ‘man I’m a fish out of water.’ I’m making way too many wheel movements, throttle inputs, steering inputs, I’m just all over the place. I’ve got to let the stock car do its normal flow.’ You have to let the car move before you react to it. In IndyCar you can react to it right away. It’s very precise with the Indy car, the stock car you have to let it flow.”
CAN YOU GET INTO SPECIFICS ON HOW YOU HAVE HAD TO TRAIN AND WHAT THE DEMANDS ARE OF AN INDYCAR VERSUS A STOCK CAR REQUIRE YOU TO TRAIN DIFFERENTLY? “Well it’s not an Indy car versus stock car it’s just being prepared for 1100 miles. Upper body strength is important in both. Core strength is what I have worked on these last six months. It’s to be able to use your core to not over exert your arms or to have your legs cramp up. It’s to be as prepared as you can be for the marathon portion of this. The demands from driving both cars are the same on the body it’s just I have to be ready to do 1100 miles.
Running to the gym, keeping my heart rate elevated while I’m there, doing martial arts type of activity in a boot camp style formula to where as it keeps your heart rate up for that full hour and then run back home from the gym. This week it’s been great to add in the full nutrition portion of the program to come in on the first part of the week with low carbs maintaining the protein. It will start tomorrow night with loading up on carbs and almost being at the big fighter weight that you would expect to see a guy with the extra weight just so that I know that I am going to burn all that off on Sunday.”
IF IT GOES WELL ON SUNDAY DO YOU THINK OTHER DRIVERS WILL BE TEMPTED TO GIVE IT A SHOT ONE DAY? “I’m a race. Tony Stewart is a racer, Robby Gordon is a racer and John Andretti is a racer. This is a true test of what your commitment level is on being a racer. There are so many practices back and forth, the travel, the logistics’; the fun meter is pegged right now. I’m having a blast doing it; you just have to know it comes with a lot of hard work. I encourage others to try it out. At the end of the day though motorsports to me is my family, it’s my home.
On the NASCAR side I’ve been here 15 years. I always open the USA Today or click on different websites for Memorial Day weekend and it’s about our military and the red, white and blue all the time. But Memorial Day weekend is a time for motorsports to shine. It starts with Monaco it goes through Indy and it ends here in Charlotte. I’m doing this for a lot of different reasons, but at the end of the day I think motorsports can use the shot in the arm to go you know what this is a guy that has never been in an Indy car we want to watch that race then we want to follow him to Charlotte to see what he can do down there running that full 600 miles.”
IS THIS UNDERTAKING BIGGER THAN YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE? OR IS IT ABOUT AS BIG AS YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE? “It’s a different discipline of motorsport. It’s a tough car to drive just like a Sprint Cup car is tough to drive. It hasn’t been overwhelming, but at the same time each day in the Indy car I’m a student and I’m learning. How many times have we all told ourselves if I would have known now what I could have known then? The way to approach this is to have fun. I have zero IndyCar experience and I’m trying to elevate my game over there to be competitive. Yes, it’s difficult.
Those guys are good at what they do. I had a shot at the Fast Nine, but that is when you have a fast car to do that with. Andretti Autosport guys have prepared a beautiful car for me to drive up there. My rookie orientation car was different than the one that I qualified and now I will have a different one in the race. It shows the level of craftsmanship that the IndyCar guys can put into their cars and then the level of ability of their drivers. I’m sitting on the fourth row and that fourth row ended up with a ton of credentials because we were all the guys that didn’t make the final nine.
It’s (Juan Pablo) Montoya, Scott Dixon and myself. That is all the way to 12th place. The names can go on and on up there on who is in the field. I’m just one guy out of 33 racing up there. I’m one guy down here racing against 43. It’s been a blast to be able to do this in my career and to say at 35 years old I’m at the peak. I’m feeling great about the Cup car. We’ve got a solid Stewart-Haas team. I’ll be back next week and it will be back to normal of running Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma and on with the rest of them.”
HAS THE FUN AND SUCCESS YOU HAVE HAD AT INDY TAKEN YOUR MIND OFF THE STRUGGLES A LITTLE BIT OF THE CUP CAR? “No I’ve been there right along with the Cup guys. I actually surprised them when we had a rain out up in Indy and came to the shop on a Wednesday last week. I could see in everybody’s eyes they were startled that I was there and at the same time they were relieved because they know that we have some work to do. I just wanted to show them my commitment. My commitment is here on the NASCAR side and I’m excited about getting in the car today to make laps and to work on getting this No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy stronger and faster.”
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN THE SENSATION OF SPEED BETWEEN INDYCAR AND NASCAR? WHICH FEELS FASTEST TO YOU? “That is a very detailed question because there are so many ways to explain it and so many different people will experience things that think that are faster in one aspect versus another. Ask Jimmie Johnson, I talked to him and I told him Bristol is one of my favorite tracks. That track it’s like it’s in slow motion when I’m out there. He goes ‘really, that place it feels like I’m going 200 mph’. I said ‘well that is what it feels like for me at Charlotte’ and you think and he told me it is slow for him. There are different drivers that have their comfort level at certain tracks and in certain forms of motorsport.
“It would be like you and your buddies riding a roller coaster. One guy is going to think it’s extremely fast and the other guy is going to go ‘nah it wasn’t so bad I’m ready for more.’ The speed it obviously shows up when you are doing something wrong. When I wrecked the other day in the Indy car that extra 20 mph and not a lot of material to crush is definitely a harder hit than what it is in a Cup car. But I was fortunate enough to hit a safer barrier and to have all the extra safety equipment on that IndyCar has put in place and that NASCAR has evolved to. I feel like drivers now are able to withstand bigger wrecks than what our pioneers and the legends of our sport have done before. Our group can challenge what those guys have done in the past, but they deserve bigger credit. The legends such as AJ Foyt or Mario Andretti, the Gurney’s those big names back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.
“I mean this whole adventure here this month of May I will finish with this, I’m talking to Mario Andretti and he is telling me a story about how in 1967 his car was overheating. They continued to fight overheating problems. They put on this panel on the back of the car to extract air from the radiator. He said ‘after we put that panel on the front tires kept lifting up. So then I made these little wickers and I put them on the front of the car to balance the front back out.’ That was the discovery on downforce. That was putting wings on cars.
All he was trying to do was extract air from the radiator so that the car could run more efficiently and that is how cars have evolved into downforce. Now that changed the game to go from whatever mph range they were in to the next mph range. Those guys were all going into foreign territory. For me I’ve had great teammates at Andretti Autosport to look at their notes. To have a team that has solid information to help me graduate as a driver through the different levels it’s been an amazing experience. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get in the Cup car today and to finish this journey on Sunday with a strong 1100 miles.”