Category archive: Kurt Busch

INDIANAPOLIS -- E.J. Viso came within the blink of an eye of the first 230 mph lap in a decade at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on "Fast Friday."

Viso, driving a Dallara/Chevrolet for the Andretti Autosport team, uncorked a lap of 229.532 mph in his Citgo-sponsored machine.

Andretti Autosport claimed the top three speeds as Marco Andretti and rookie Carlos Munoz both topped 228 mph. Chevrolet-powered cars claimed the top eight positions on the speed chart, with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti the fastest Honda-powered competitor at 227.080 mph.

With an additional 10 mPA of turbocharger boost creating 40-45 extra horsepower, Friday practice speeds were approximately 4.5 mph faster than the previous best speed of the week -- 225.163 mph set by Munoz on Thursday.

Last year, the cool conditions of the final practice session on Saturday morning prior to qualifying produced laps about 0.3 mph quicker than Fast Friday of 2012.

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E.J. Viso
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesE.J. Viso and the rest of the Andretti Autosport team were fastest on Fast Friday.

This year, Fast Friday conditions were not ideal for speed, with temperatures around 80 degrees and considerable humidity.

"I reckon we'd have been over 230 if we had a full day," Andretti said. "Obviously those were 'tow' laps.

"I think as a team, we're very comfortable with where we're at," he added. "But tomorrow is another day."

Andretti revealed that if he had his way, he'd sleep right through the Saturday 8 a.m. practice session.

"You don't learn a lot and in fact you can actually fool yourself," he said. "I think we were confident enough with our last couple of runs that we could just go out and qualify right now."

This is the second year that INDYCAR increased the turbo boost for Fast Friday and qualifying in an effort to produce speeds with a bit more sizzle. Last year, the drivers unanimously stated their desire to race with the additional horsepower, and most teams would prefer to have a consistent amount of power to work with as they develop their chassis setups.

"It's difficult for us to actually work on qualifying setups throughout the week, because typically the speeds build up gradually throughout the week and then on Friday you have this large buildup in terms of speed," explained Penske Racing president Tim Cindric. "You have to understand how the additional speed will affect the balance of the car. It's a lot to ask of these guys to have that difference in speed of 5-7 mph right before qualifying.

"I think it's good in terms of the overall impact to the sport, it's just difficult to do that in the short period of time like we have," he added. "But I'm certainly an advocate of trying to set new track records here, so I think we need to continue to work towards the right balance of safety and speed."

Teams lost nearly three hours of track time on Friday when rain swept into the Speedway at about 3:15 p.m. IMS officials called an end to the day's activity at 3:42 p.m. and moved the traditional draw for qualifying positions up to 5:00 p.m.

"Today is the day when the pressure really begins to mount for the drivers, and when you get a weather situation like we had today where it looked like we'd only be able to run up to about 3 o'clock, that just amplifies the situation," Cindric said. "It depends on the engine manufacturers, but I think you'll see 230 in tomorrow morning's practice. 230 might be a stretch, and I don't want to put that expectation out there. But I think we'll see those laps with some draft."

Last year's four-lap average pole speed was set by Ryan Briscoe at 226.484 mph. Helio Castroneves had the fastest individual lap speed of the month last year at 227.744 mph.

"It's very difficult to predict anything right now," said Ed Carpenter -- the IndyCar Series' most recent 500-mile race winner at Auto Club Speedway last season -- who was quickest on opening day, but 16th on Fast Friday at 226.768 mph. "I think the pole will be in the high 227 or low 228 for four laps.

"I have a good idea of what I think we can run on Saturday, but I'm not sure what everyone else can do."

Kurt BuschTodd Warshaw/Getty ImagesKurt Busch said doing the Memorial Day weekend double would make for a special one.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Last week, Kurt Busch took time off from his NASCAR duties for Furniture Row Racing to test an Australian V8 Supercar at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Now he's about to get back behind the wheel of an Indy car.

That's right, back.

Busch is set to test one of Andretti Autosport's Dallara-Chevrolets at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 9. But it's a little-known fact the elder Busch brother actually tested an Indy car at Sebring International Raceway in February 2003. Busch wasn't looking to make a career change into open-wheel competition; at the time, he was firmly ensconced at Roush Racing and on the brink of winning the 2004 NASCAR Cup championship.

But in those days, Ford was the exclusive engine supplier to the CART-sanctioned Indy car series, and the Blue Oval arranged for Busch to take a spin in one of Team Rahal's Ford-Cosworth powered Lolas at the popular Florida test track.

Driving the car normally piloted by Michel Jourdain Jr., Busch certainly didn't embarrass himself. In what was basically his first-ever run in a rear-engine, open-wheel racing car, Busch lapped the 1.669-mile Sebring road course in 54.72 seconds -- just less than four seconds slower than test pacesetter Oriol Servia and less than 1.4 seconds slower than PK Racing rookie Patrick Lemarie.

Busch spun a couple of times, but overall, he made a deep impression on about 100 interested onlookers watching his 18-lap demonstration from a hillside between Turns 4 and 5.

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Kurt Busch
John Harrelson/Getty ImagesKurt Busch has a full-time job in NASCAR, but maybe one other race in the IndyCar Series isn't too much to ask.

"He looks good," remarked Jimmy Vasser, now an IndyCar Series team owner, but back then a driver who spectated during Busch's 30-minute demonstration run along with fellow CART drivers Servia and Paul Tracy. "The guy's obviously got talent because he won a bunch of Winston Cup races last year, and that's not easy."

Busch was grateful to have gotten the opportunity to drive the Team Rahal Champ Car. "The whole experience was first class," he said then. "Team Rahal went above and beyond what I'm used to in terms of telling me what to expect from the car, and Michel was very polite and very generous to let me drive his car today."

Busch spun early in his first flying lap, but he quickly settled into the mid-57 second bracket. After a pit stop to discuss the car with engineer Ray Leto and the Team Rahal crew, Busch returned to the track and steadily chipped away at the lap time until he put in a pair of sub-55 second tours. A second spin at Turn 2 ended his fun after 18 laps.

"After riding around with Michel this morning in a rental car, I knew the section between Turn 1 and Turn 3 was going to be difficult," Busch said then. "My first spin was down to cold tires, and on the last spin, I was just trying to carry too much speed because I was losing a lot of time there, due to the fact that I didn't trust the downforce.

"I probably lost 1.5 seconds of time on the lap just under braking," he added. "The braking was unlike anything I have ever comprehended in my life."

At the time, Busch expanded on his open-wheel experience in a column I ghost-wrote for the English magazine Autosport.

"Believe it or not, I call this my first experience in an open-wheel car," he told me. "I drove a Formula Ford at a Bondurant school four years ago, but that is irrelevant to driving a Champ Car. Many years ago, I went to Phoenix International Raceway to watch Modified and Super Modified cars race, and my dad told me it would be the closest thing I would ever see to an Indy car.

"So I am very appreciative to my friends at Ford for creating this chance, but I'm going to keep my day job," he added. "The door is open now and I enjoyed the experience, but I think I'll stick to what I'm accustomed to."

Busch could hardly have imagined that, more than 10 years later, he would get another shot at driving an Indy car -- this time, courtesy of Chevrolet and on a proper oval track.

Team owner Michael Andretti said he and Busch came into contact last year when they were working on "another racing project" -- presumed to be Andretti Autosport's exploratory effort to enter NASCAR racing -- and he looks forward to seeing what a modern stock car star can do in an Indy car.

"I respect his talent and am happy to give him the opportunity to experience the raw speed of an Indy car," Andretti stated. "It's a unique feel and perspective -- it will be totally different than what he is used to driving each week on the Cup circuit."

Busch was already asked about the possibility of attempting the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 double, something only three drivers (John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart) have successfully completed.

"I have always enjoyed racing at Indianapolis, and when IMS and Michael presented me with the opportunity to test an Indy car prior to opening day of practice of the Indianapolis 500, I jumped at it," Busch said.

"I'm looking forward to this test and experiencing IMS at the speeds the Indy cars run," he added. "Let's see how the test goes, and then I can look at the opportunities that could be beyond this coming Thursday. Running the Indianapolis 500 would certainly be a highlight, and doing another 600 miles in a Cup car on the same day would make for a special weekend."