Although Kurt Busch breezed through the three speed phases of the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program in his test Thursday with Andretti Autosport, the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion indicated he did not plan to try and race for the team in this year's 97th running of the Indianapolis 500. However, he left open the possibility of doing so next year – as did enthusiastic car owner Michael Andretti.
Driving the No. 1 DHL Andretti Autosport normally driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Busch posted an official top lap speed of 218.210mph on 83 laps in the rookie program that consists of 10 laps at 200-205mph, 15 laps at 205-209mph and 15 laps at 210-plus mph. In addition, IndyCar officials monitor car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern.
"I do notice when I'm in the (Indy) car that you just have less time to look at things," Busch said. "Halfway through that second session we did, that's when things started to slow down (mentally). So you just have to graduate with the car and with the comfort level. It will help me respect the track more for an IndyCar.
"The biggest thing I see when I watch the Indianapolis 500 is how far ahead you have to anticipate. When you are the only car out there, it's fine. But when you throw other cars out there, there's no way to simulate that. It was a treat that couldn't be equaled."
By passing the formal rookie test, Busch is eligible to participate in practice and qualifying for the "500," and Busch said he was eager to plan a Coca-Cola 600/Indianapolis 500 double next year.
"There are faster planes and faster helicopters these days," he said of the midday and early evening starts of the races in Indianapolis and Concord, N.C. "If we could get the times sorted out, you would have more interest in sponsors and drivers and owners wanting to do the double. That's what fans want to see.
"There's the mental and physical side of it and then the business side of it," Busch added. "It could be a 13-month project. It's something to try to stretch yourself to the limit in motorsports. It's all about business and sponsorships and timing but I definitely want to race in the Indy 500 if we can make it happen.
“But I'm not talking about this year. It's one thing to be out there running by yourself but put 30 other cars out there and it's a whole new deal. I'd be like a dart without feathers in all that traffic, so I'd like to get more comfortable and maybe run another race."
Added Andretti: “It's too early to say anything definite but if we can work things out I'd love to run Kurt here next year.”
Andretti and IZOD IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe, who has won two of the four races this season, were on pit lane to offer pointers.
"He came into it with a really open mind and was really receptive to the feedback we were giving him," Hinchcliffe said. "The guy's a natural. He jumped in, was comfortable right away, was eager to keep improving."