NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch is bringing the Indy/Charlotte double back, as in he’s officially confirmed that he’ll be racing in both the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar Series premier event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ longest race, at Charlotte Motor Speedway, both on May 25.
It’s been several years since a driver has pulled the double. Robby Gordon last attempted it in 2004. Only three drivers have tried before Busch: Gordon, John Andretti and Busch’s bos at Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart. Of the multiple attempts by multiple drivers, only once have all 1100 miles been completed on the same day. Stewart acheived that feat in 2001.
“I’m a fan of motorsports, a student of motorspors, and I view this as a challenge for myself,” Busch said. “Memorial Day weekend, the central focus of all motorsports is Monaco, Indianapolis and Charlotte, and this is a temendous opportunity to be right in the middle of it.”
For most of the seasons since 2004, the double has been impossible because of scheduling changes. But schedules were set back in recent years to allow the double-try to be possible again. Last year, there was even a $1 million bonus on the table if a driver could win both events. Busch contemplated trying to run both last year to the point that he did go through with ccompleting the 2013 Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation program, but in the end, he backed out.
Now that he’s committed, is it a good idea to do both or is it a disaster waiting to happen?
For a lot of racers, NASCAR drivers included, the opportunity to race anything, anywhere, anytime is awfully appealling. Case in point — brother Kyle Busch’s marathon seasons of Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series competition. Also note boss man Stewart’s racing schedule that may primarily limited to Sprint Cup as far as NASCAR’s concerned, but includes all kinds of sprint car racing on the side. Maybe their itch to race anything, anywhere anytime is rubbing off, as if Busch didn’t already feel that itch. After all, he’s already taken up the side hobby of drag racing. Remember, his boss Stewart is one of the few who know about this whole Indy/Charlotte double thing.
Come to think of it, I don’t think Busch has as much to lose, as far as his Sprint Cup season goes, as his double predecessors did. These other attempts came before the implementation of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Back then, all races earned the same number of points with no resets with 10 races to go.
With the new Chase format in place for this year, as long as Busch wins one of the other 25 races before the Chase, he still has pretty good title chances. Okay, so there have already been two races, and he hasn’t won yet, so make that win one of the other 23 races. That’s not to suggest that he can’t run at Indy, fly to Charlotte and then win the Coca-Cola 600. I guess it could happen. There’s a first time for everything.
But even if we eliminate the chance of Busch winning at Charlotte upon his return from Indianapolis, it won’t really matter what happens at Charlotte, that is, if he wins somewhere else. Remember, under this new Chase format, win, and you’re pretty much in — that is, as long as you keep yourself in the top-30 in points. No matter what happens at Charlotte, I don’t think staying in the top-30, points-wise, is going to be an issue. Denny Hamlin managed that, despite missing several races last year.
Of course, this all hinges on his winning a Cup race this year. But he is back with a top-flight team this year at Stewart-Haas Racing. When Busch was last with a top-tier team, Penske Racing, he was producing multiple wins per year. I sure wouldn’t be surprised to see Busch in victory lane at least a time or two sometime, somewhere this season.
The $1 million bonus last year wasn’t enough to make anyone actually bite at the chance to run and win both Indy and Charlotte. Busch did nibble at the opportunity, somewhat, with the Indy rookie orientation. Maybe this new Chase format that allows drivers to better secure post-season berths while also pursuing other opportunities is just what’s needed to get more drivers looking at the option.
Who’ll be next to try? If Stewart doesn’t try it again, my money’s on Brad Keselowski. He’s spoken of interest before. And he does drive for Roger Penske. Just saying. Then again, maybe it’ll be Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing.