"Go out and have fun," Andretti Autosport engineer Craig Hampson relayed to Kurt Busch late on a sunny morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Indeed, the Nevada native heeded the advice on the 2.5-mile oval during a special refresher program arranged in conjunction with his schedule that will get more hectic during May. Jacques Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner, was the other driver on the track progressing through a refresher course.
Busch, 35, will attempt to become the fourth driver to attempt the "double" -- competing in the 98th Indianapolis 500 and the evening stock car race in Concord, N.C., on May 25. He won the latter in 2010. John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart have each done it, with Stewart -- co-owner of Busch's No. 41 Sprint Cup car at Stewart Haas Racing -- becoming the first in 2001 to complete all 1,000 miles.
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"This attempt is something serious," said Busch, who is scheduled to join other Indy 500 rookies May 5 at the Speedway for additional laps. "It's an amazing challenge."
Busch was off to a quick start learning the Honda-powered No. 26 Suretone car, with a stiff headwind entering Turn 1 of the iconic oval, recording a best of 220.844 mph on 66 total laps before rain moved across Central Indiana late in the afternoon. ABC analyst and former Indy car driver Scott Goodyear said such wind direction was more beneficial than the alternative, which makes the car "feel like it's floating." "(Drivers) can handle a tailwind in Turn 3 better," he added.
"It really makes you think," said Busch, who is used to driving a race car more than twice the weight of an Indy car. "Overall, it was a good day just to settle in with the team and advance further than rookie orientation. It felt good to give feedback to the team from the car and have them explain things to me how we're going to move forward. They continued to change downforce combinations on the car and it was just neat to feel all that and check it off the list.
"The last run we made was just about where they would unload for race trim."
Because he tested last May on the oval last year in an Andretti Autosport car, Busch was required to complete the formal refresher program. In addition to demonstrating car control, placement and consistent driving pattern, the program consists of 30 laps that constitute the second and third phases of the Rookie Orientation Program at speed intervals based on track and weather conditions.
"Now that all the newness and moments of smiling and 'this is Indy' are wearing off, that's when the serious hat goes on and we start to ramp up the program."
Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe, who joined multiple other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers watching the first cars on the oval in 2014, said he expects Busch to be among the '500' contenders.
“I think we’re going to be strong in the race and I think we’ve showed that the past couple of years,” said Hinchciffe, who drives the No. 27 United Fiber & Data car. “He has more professional races under his belt than the rest of the field combined with as many races as NASCAR runs and I’m sure he’s going to adapt pretty quickly.”
Busch's May itinerary:
May 11 -- Opening of practice for Indianapolis 500 (day after the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway)
May 12-16 -- Practice at the Speedway, fly to North Carolina for practice May 16
May 17 -- First day of Indianapolis 500 qualifications, fly to North Carolina to qualify for All-Star race and compete in non-points race
May 18 -- Second day of Indianapolis 500 qualifications
May 19 -- Race set-up practice at the Speedway
May 20 -- In New York for media
May 23 -- Miller Lite Carb Day practice (11 a.m.-noon) at the Speedway
May 24 -- Public drivers meeting, autograph session at the Speedway; IPL 500 Festival Parade
May 25 -- Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET on ABC) , fly to North Carolina for second race