Kurt Busch to be 4th to try double

Updated: March 9, 2014, 9:05 PM ET
By John Oreovicz | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- NASCAR star Kurt Busch announced Tuesday that he will try to be the first driver in a decade to "do the double" -- compete in IndyCar's Indianapolis 500 and Sprint Cup's Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

Speaking on "Fox & Friends," Busch confirmed he will drive a Dallara-Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport at Indy on May 25 before immediately flying to Charlotte, N.C., to pilot his regular No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in NASCAR's longest race.

"It's a big day for us," Busch said. "The logistical side is a big challenge, and the other challenge was getting two teams with the caliber of Andretti Autosport and Stewart-Haas Racing lined up. Cessna's plane travel company is going to help me get back and forth.

"In this day and age of social media, everyone's going to want to keep up with us. It's Memorial Day weekend, and this isn't just a PR stunt."

On Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, Busch revealed he is closing the Kurt Busch Foundation, rolling it into the Armed Forces Foundation with an initial $100,000 donation. He said that will be a key element of his Indy/Charlotte double.

"I've been working with the Armed Forces Foundation the last three years to build attention toward our troops and their PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] struggles and traumatic brain injuries," Busch said. "I'm doing this for the troops. There's going to be a full-on workout regimen that I'm going to be full tilt with the next three months. It's hard to do 1,100 miles the same day. It's not just the physical side; it's the mental side as well."

Busch, 35, has entertained thoughts of racing an IndyCar for at least a decade. In early 2003, he ran about 20 laps in one of Bobby Rahal's Lola/Cosworth Indy cars at the Sebring International Raceway road course. In May 2013, he had a more serious test, spending a day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Andretti team, reaching a speed of 218 mph.

There was not enough time to secure sponsorship and staffing for Busch to compete in last year's Indy 500, but the driver and team owner Michael Andretti pledged to stay in contact about the possibility of Busch making his IndyCar debut at Indianapolis this year.

[+] EnlargeKurt Busch
Nick Laham/NASCAR/Getty ImagesKurt Busch said Tuesday that he will be the first driver since 2004 to compete in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600, which are run on the same day.

"There was legitimate value to doing the rookie orientation and passing the test last year with Andretti Autosport," Busch said. "I was intrigued about doing it, as a student of motorsport."

The plan was complicated when the Andretti team switched from Chevrolet to Honda engines this year, creating a potential conflict due to Busch's Chevrolet ties in NASCAR. After exploring options with Chevrolet-powered IndyCar teams, including Ganassi Racing and Team Penske, Busch decided that he wanted to remain loyal to Andretti and was able to work out a release to drive a Honda car at Indy.

"Sometimes when you go to the dance with your first partner, you want to stay there and stick it out," Busch said. "I'm a loyal guy, and the coaching I received from Michael Andretti during that rookie orientation day was priceless. For him and IMS to invest in that day was a big moment. So I always hoped to do it with Andretti Autosport. NASCAR and IndyCar gave us their blessing. We just needed to work through some of the scheduling issues."

Busch's entry will be Andretti Autosport's fifth car in the Indianapolis 500's 33-car field, to go along with those driven by full-time IndyCar Series drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Carlos Munoz.

"I'm really excited to have Kurt come on board for the Indy 500," Andretti said. "He did a great job for us when he tested last year. He's obviously a natural talent, and we feel he is going to take to the IndyCar quickly and have a competitive month with us."

Although his efforts to race at Indy in 2013 fell through, Busch never let up in trying to find a way to race in one of the most famous events in the world.

"It's like we've been driving down a hilly country road -- not mountainous, but just hills," he said. "I learned last October that Andretti Autosport was switching to Honda. That was another downhill run. During the offseason, there wasn't much activity, and that seemed like another downhill run. But as of January, things started going uphill again and we found a lot of green lights ahead of us to make this deal happen. It started really gaining traction when we talked about it during the NASCAR media tour."

One important thing Busch had going for him was an understanding team owner in Tony Stewart, one of three drivers to have completed the Indy-Charlotte double. Stewart did it twice. In 1999, he finished ninth at Indianapolis and fourth at Charlotte, and in 2001, he became the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles, finishing sixth at Indy and third under the lights in Charlotte.

"It's great having Tony as the co-owner of my NASCAR team," Busch said. "In the weeks leading up to the month of May, it gives me a chance to talk with him about his personal experiences with the double -- to anticipate what's next and have things checked off the list so that I'm mentally and physically prepared for the challenge."

Stewart, an Indiana native, won the 1997 IRL-sanctioned IndyCar championship before moving full time to NASCAR the following year.

"We've got one life here, and you've got to chase your dreams," Stewart told reporters at the media tour in January. "You can't sit here and worry about things that could happen. I'm excited that he has those aspirations and a new challenge that he hasn't had before."

Aside from Stewart, the others who have completed the same-day double include John Andretti, who in 1994 was the first driver to attempt the feat. He finished 10th at Indy and 36th at Charlotte. Robby Gordon made five attempts, achieving the most success in 2002 when he ran eighth at Indy and 16th at Charlotte, falling short by just one lap of completing the full 1,100 miles.

Gordon's final attempt in 2004 was the last time any driver competed in both races. In 2005, the traditional 11 a.m. ET start time at Indianapolis was pushed back to noon and then 1 p.m., making it logistically impossible to complete the three-hour race and make it to Charlotte in time for that event's 6 p.m. ET start. Indianapolis has since reverted to a noon start, in part to encourage NASCAR drivers to attempt the double.

Busch will rely on a carefully choreographed travel plan that includes helicopters and a private jet in order to make the green flag at Charlotte. Because he likely will miss the prerace driver's meeting at Charlotte, Busch probably will start from the back of the field.

One key difference between Busch and the others who have run both Charlotte and Indianapolis is the latter group was all full-time IndyCar drivers before they switched to NASCAR. The last true stock car driver to compete at the Indianapolis 500 was Bobby Allison, who while driving for Penske Racing opted to skip several NASCAR races to focus on a monthlong program at Indy in 1973 and '75.

Through 1970, the Indianapolis 500 was always run on May 30, meaning it rarely conflicted with what was then called the World 600 at Charlotte. Several stock drivers tried their luck at Indy, which in those days was by far the richest and most prestigious race in the world.

In 1967, Cale Yarborough was the first driver to contest both races. Jerry Grant followed suit a year later, followed by LeeRoy Yarbrough in 1969.

In 1970, Donnie Allison posted the best combined finishes in the two races, winning at Charlotte on May 24 and finishing fourth to claim rookie of the year honors in Indianapolis six days later. The following year, Allison ran sixth at Indy and was runner-up at Charlotte the next day.

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