CONCORD, N.C. | Every television set at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including the monstrous 16,000-square-foot high-definition screen in the third turn, will be tuned to the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Unlike seasons past, there is no competition between IndyCar Racing’s premier event and the Coca-Cola 600, one of the crown jewels of the NASCAR season. Thanks to Kurt Busch, there should be plenty of attention for both races.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the “double” by racing at Indianapolis early in the day and finishing off a 600-mile race at Charlotte that night. Tony Stewart, John Andretti and Robby Gordon have accomplished the Herculean feat, but they didn’t attract the kind of attention that comes with Busch’s effort this season.
“I can’t wait to get up Sunday morning, turn the Indy 500 on and watch Kurt’s day,” NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray said. “I’m excited about it, and I hope other fans — whether you’re and IndyCar fan or a NASCAR fan — are excited to watch his whole day as well. I think it’s really cool what he’s doing.”
Busch will be a very capable Honda-powered Dallara from Andretti Autosports at Indianapolis and an equally capable Chevrolet from Stewart-Haas Racing at Charlotte. He will start 13th at Indianapolis and 28th at Charlotte.
“I’m doing this for a lot of different reasons. But at the end of the day, I think motorsports can use the shot in the arm to go, you know what, this is a guy that has never been in an Indy car. We want to watch that race, then we want to follow him to Charlotte to see what he can do down there running that full 600 miles,” Busch said.
The IndyCar garage has embraced Busch. The NASCAR garage is equally supportive. The way he’s been accepted and respected by both sides has been the greatest surprise of the plan, he said.
As the Indy 500 approaches, the NASCAR side is getting ramped up to follow every lap.
“I can’t wait to watch and pull for him. He’s representing the entire sport,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “Whether he knows it or not, he’s got a lot of people, drivers, crew and just about everyone on the infield pulling for him to do well because he is representing all of us. He’s definitely put in a strong effort to make a different impression. I have to hand it to him. He’s done a lot of work.”
Busch has dedicated both races to raising money and awareness for the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can pledge money for each lap completed at www.kurtbuschdouble.com, and the money goes directly to the foundation that supports the needs of veterans.
“I really like the work he is doing with the armed forces, and it says a lot about what’s important to him more than anything he is doing on the racetrack,” Earnhardt said. “He’s doing some amazing work and making an impact. That’s doing a lot for him, like it matters, in my eyes. I respect him a lot more because of that.”
Stewart set the “double-standard” in 2001 when he finished sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte.
“The fans are paying attention to that, and we’re paying attention — everybody in this room and everybody in this garage area is paying attention to it,” Clint Bowyer said.
Busch knows the demands are both physical and mental. Preparation will only carry him part of the way. Adrenaline will have to do the rest.
“The fun meter is pegged right now,” he said. “I’m having a blast doing it. You just have to know it comes with a lot of hard work. I encourage others to try it out. At the end of the day, though, motorsports to me is my family. It’s my home.”