INDIANAPOLIS - NASCAR star Kurt Busch exited Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon with a newfound appreciation for his open-wheel brethren. And following a workmanlike, sixth-place finish in the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, the admiration certainly was mutual.
Busch successfully completed the Indianapolis 500, taking the first step in his bid to become the second driver to finish the race as well as the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.
After the finish, he darted off to catch his private jet for his night race in Concord, N.C. Busch pushed through the physical demands, but his NASCAR horsepower wasn't as strong. His engine blew several cylinders on Lap 273 last night, preventing him from completing the daunting daily double. Jimmie Johnson took home the checkered flag at the 600.
"It's like the car just swallowed three cylinders all at once," Busch said. "Those things happen in motor sports. It was a good battle though. I was hoping to do 1,100 miles today. I can't let what happened here dampen the mood of what happened in Indianapolis."
Earlier in the day, Busch presented solid credentials for IndyCar Rookie of the Year honors with his top-10, lead-lap finish as Andretti Autosport teammate to race-winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"My throat's real dry," Busch said, "because I was smiling the whole time and fresh air was coming into my mouth."
Busch is the fourth driver to have attempted "Double Duty" by racing in both events on the same day. Busch's sixth-place run allowed him to tie three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart (2001) and Robby Gordon (2000) for the highest Indy finish by a driver in "The Double." Stewart, co-owner of the 41 car that Busch would drive at Concord, is the only driver to have completed the full 1,100-mile marathon (2001). And Stewart's third-place same-day Cup result also is the standard for the NASCAR race.
"Well, I'm not halfway yet," Busch, 35, said before hustling away. "It was an incredible journey to sniff the lead of the Indy 500 in that lead group. I'll tell you, though, the top-five [drivers] are incredible in this series at getting all they can out of their car, being able to keep it under control and being able to race for position." -- With AP