CONCORD — Kurt Busch’s week of double-duty racing got off to a solid start Saturday.
Busch, who will race in both NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day, ran some qualifying laps in Indy before returning to Charlotte Motor Speedway later in the day for the Sprint All-Star race.
And while he returned to familiar territory at Charlotte, he spent the early part of the day getting accustomed to Indy’s 2.5-mile track in an open-wheel car.
“Each day is a lesson of being a student and learning what I can to advance my car,” said Busch. “My inexperience is what will hold us (back) at that last little bit. Each day, though, there have been nice improvements. So it’s hard to know what to expect.”
Busch had a four-lap average of 229.60 mph Saturday at Indy. That wasn’t fast enough for him to have a shot at the pole, but he’ll be back in Indianapolis on Sunday for more qualifying laps. He could start as high as 10th.
He’s quickly grown to appreciate the racing culture in Indianapolis, despite having run just a few laps.
“It’s really neat to feel the small, hometown Indiana feel on the grand stage,” he said. “The world does watch the Indy 500. So it’s emotional. It’s fun.
“They have a different feel up there at Gasoline Alley. They’re right there on top of the drivers when they got in and out and rooting the teams on. I heard a guy heckle me, ‘Hey, you taxi cab driver, you!’ I went, ‘Hey, that’s awesome.’”
Busch will be the fourth driver – joining John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon – to drive in both Memorial Day races.
“The open cockpit is a whole different experience,” Busch said. “The biggest surprise has been the warm welcome in the open-wheel paddock. The Indy Car guys have been just so supportive and giving me encouragement. It’s been really neat to see them reach out. I thought it would be cutthroat from those guys.
“But we haven’t gotten into race weekend yet. I’m sure that will change.”