“Just an incredible feeling to be able to drive at Indianapolis in May in and Indy car and have the name Andretti on it. It was a dream come true, and to have, like you said, all the support of the engine, tires and team to put it together, I’m thankful for that chance.”
On Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch got the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to drive an IndyCar Series car for Andretti Autosport in a test session at Indianapolis. And it wasn’t just any car, but the car that Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive in this year’s Indianapolis 500.
Busch admitted that during the first couple of laps, he felt like a kid in a candy store and found himself getting used to bugs hitting the visor, instead of the windshield.
“Then you quickly try to ignore those and focus on the racing line, where you need to be on the racetrack to find the comfort, and as we progress through the rookie orientation side of it, you can see why that’s developed to help drivers get up to speed with the different phases of the mile an hour,” Busch said. “I couldn’t asked for more from Ray (Gosselin) , the lead engineer, and to have Michael standing there and then (James) Hinchcliffe came and put in his advice, and to have a driver like himself sit there and try to put my mind at ease is one thing. And then you have a legend with Michael telling me what to do, I couldn’t have asked for anything better, a treat that can’t be equaled to say the least. Maybe an F1 car, but we’ll stay right here.”
Busch successfully passed the three phases of the rookie orientation and has his official IndyCar Series driver’s license. The rookie orientation consists of three phases – phase one is 10 laps running 200-205 mph, phase two is running 15 laps 205-210 mph and phase three is running 15 laps at 210+ mph. Busch turned 83 laps during the day, running a top speed of 218.210 mph.
Busch would be interested in running the Indianapolis 500, but says it would be hard right now to do the double.
“I mean, a driver can race here at Indianapolis, give a full 500 miles. That needs to be the end of his day,” he commented. “To run 600 miles after that you’ve got to pace yourself. I honestly think I wouldn’t be able to do it this year just with stamina, just with not giving my all for my Furniture Row team in Charlotte. I need to get more comfortable in the IndyCar because on a day like today, I’m white knuckle, my hands were tense and firm, and that was only after 10 laps.
“And so then it started to settle in. So there’s the mental side of it, there’s the physical side, there’s the sponsorship side that has to come together, and right now with Kyle Moyer looking sideways at Michael, Michael wants to do it, but they’ve already got five cars committed to trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year.”
Michael Andretti added that it would be hard to do it logistically.
“It would be really difficult to get, first of all, all the teams to agree on both sides for that to happen, for NASCAR to agree, for IndyCar to agree,” he said. “It would be so much that you’d have to get logistically‑wise to make it happen that I think it would be pretty tough, but it would be cool if it could actually happen that way.”
Busch added that he would like to test at another oval and get into a race-trim conditions of racing in a pack before running a race.
There were some concerns in doing the test because Busch was driving Hunter-Reay’s Indianapolis 500 car, but Michael Andretti noted that he wanted to do it the right way.
“We wanted him to have a real experience,” Andretti said. “We wanted to make some changes that he could feel and start to understand a little bit more about what to expect with the car in different conditions and different setups. I think we were able to achieve that.
“I would say the day went as good as we could have expected. Kurt did exactly what I thought he was going to do. He just drove exactly the way we wanted him to do it. He gave great feedback, right on pace, built up to it nice and steady, didn’t do anything stupid, which we knew he wouldn’t, and it was a really good day.”