May 8, 2013
Kurt Busch sought out former Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. for some advice about driving an IZOD IndyCar Series car at speed around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Good call.
The 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time series champion relayed "that there's the speed side of it and also the experience of a rear-engine car to get used to" to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.
Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion, will be behind the wheel of the Chevrolet-powered Andretti Autosport car that reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive starting May 11 in practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race during the unofficial test session from 9 a.m.-noon (ET) May 9. The special session is open to spectators to watch from the South Terrace Grandstand and Turn 2 viewing mounds for free.
Following the on-track activity, Busch and team owner Michael Andretti will hold a news conference from the Speedway that will be streamed live on www.indycar.com at 12:15 p.m. (ET).
"I was the mentor and he was student (during Hornish's early days in stock cars) and I flopped it on him," Busch said. "I got some good advice to help some of the butterflies go away. There's nothing that can ever prepare you to holding a car wide open at Indianapolis going into Turn 1. In a heavy stock car, I'm used to braking (way back)."
Busch has made 12 stock car starts at the Brickyard, with a best finish of fifth in 2001. He was fitted in a seat and given a tutorial about the paddle shifting at the Andretti Autosport shop May 8.
Under the supervision of INDYCAR officials, Busch will go through the speed phases similar to the Rookie Orientation Program in which all drivers must participate to compete in Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifying.
"This is big time to have Andretti give you a call in the Month of May," said Busch, who tested a Champ Car car at Sebring International Raceway in 2003. "This is a dream come true and a unique opportunity in the world of motorsports. I even brought my dad to take it all in.
"With the Andretti legacy at the Speedway, bringing Dad along, the history of the facility, it ties it all together. Let's go to the track, go through this experience together and see what it turns into."
The potential is for Busch doing "the double" -- competing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Sprint Cup race in Concord, N.C., on the same day -- in 2014 or beyond.
"I wouldn't call it an audition," Busch said. "I think the most important thing is to have fun with it first and then let the business side take care of itself. I feel like a kid in a candy store."
Added Andretti, who will assist Busch with the intricacies of the considerably lighter car and 2.5-mile racetrack: "You never know; we'll see how it goes. This was a great opportunity to get him in a car and I'm sure he'll get right up to speed."