By Kate Guerra
(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) – For Kurt Busch, competing in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race wasn’t been a goal until recently because he never envisioned it was attainable. Today, Busch announced he is one step closer to achieving that goal.
The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will join Andretti Autosport for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25. He’ll also seek to become the fourth driver to "do the double" by competing in the Coca-Cola 600 in Concord, N.C.
"To add a driver with the résumé of Kurt Busch to the Indianapolis 500 field is a huge gain for INDYCAR," said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations. "We want to see the best 33 drivers put their skills to the test on the biggest stage in motorsports, regardless of which series they come from. To attempt ‘the Double’ is a tremendous challenge, and we’re looking forward to watching Kurt accomplish the feat this May."
Busch, 35, who is dedicating the effort to U.S. military personnel serving around the world, said the opportunity "is a dream come true."
"My dad and I would go to car shows and see Indy cars and he’d say, ‘This is about as close as you’ll ever get to one of these things’ because it was so far removed from what we could dream as a small blue-collar family from Las Vegas," Busch said. "It’s just the different opportunities that have come up in motorsports (that have led me) to this biggest moment outside of stock cars.”
Busch tested an Andretti Autosport car at the Speedway last May – his second time in an Indy car – between Sprint Cup Series races. He finished 14th in the Brickyard 400 on the 2.5-mile oval three months later.
"That was a whole kid in a candy store moment of experiencing an open-wheel car at 220 mph," he said. "The adrenaline and excitement was there, but last year just didn’t seem like the right timing. Now 11 months of chewing on the fat and working on the details, I’m more excited than ever to do this."
Qualifications are May 17-18, with final practice on Carburetion Day May 23. Busch said a testing plan interspersed in the NASCAR schedule to "get up to speed" with teammates Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz is being drafted.
"It’s going to be a steady progression that I have to follow Andretti Autosport’s lead," he said. "We have a full-blown test program to be the best-prepared we can for the Month of May. It’s about absorbing as much as I can and chewing on it the right way.“
The last driver to attempt the double was Robby Gordon in 2004. Gordon, who in 2002 and ’03 raced in both events, started the ’04 Indy 500 but left at the first red flag (rain) for North Carolina. Jaques Lazier finished the race for Gordon. John Andretti (1994) and Tony Stewart (1999 and 2001) also raced in both events. Stewart is the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles – finishing sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte Motor Speedway.