Kurt Busch will attempt to complete the 2014 Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 double having landed a drive at the Brickyard with Andretti Autosport.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will become the first driver since Robby Gordon in 2004 to contest the 1,100 mile marathon, making his IndyCar debut in the process. Only three drivers have ever competed in both races on the same day – Gordon, John Andretti and Busch’s team-owner, Tony Stewart.
“To me, I’ve always just tried to challenge myself in motorsports, and to be a student of all kind of cars — dirt tracks, road courses, superspeedways, short track, open wheel, and of course, our stock cars,” Busch told NASCAR.com. “That’s my love, my passion, and it’s in my blood. And it’s a chance to challenge myself, to do something physically and mentally as a driver, and show how tough NASCAR drivers are.”
Busch will also find himself doing double-duty in the run-up to the big day, with the Indianapolis 500 Pole Day running on May 17, the same day as the Sprint All-Star Race. Busch has received the full support of co-owners Stewart and Gene Haas, with the former prepared to give the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion as much advice as necessary.
“That’s going to be tough to achieve with my lack of Indy experience,” said Busch, talking about Stewart’s brace of top-10 finishes in 1999 and 2001. “But to have his support — he said he wanted to go and watch the beginning of the 500 with me. It’s an amazing feeling to have a guy like Tony Stewart there. A.J. Foyt, he gave me a thumbs-up at the Daytona 500, thinking that I might be doing this. So it’s really nice to have the support on the open-wheel side.”
Completing the double was made easier in 2011, thanks to the Indy 500 being moved back to a noon start, allowing an adequate window for a driver to travel between the two circuits. Mark Martin will be placed on standby in case Busch is held up.
Busch’s first taste of IndyCar came at a rookie test in early May 2013, when he shook down an Andretti Autosport machine and has since made it his goal to compete at the Indy 500. A sponsor deal for the race is reportedly close, although nothing has yet been signed.
In addition to pushing himself to the limit, Busch will be using the weekend to raise awareness for the Armed Forces Foundation, using the fact the race is run on Memorial Day weekend to bring issues such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and high suicide rates among veterans to light.
“It’s even extra special for me that this is happening on Memorial Day weekend,” Busch said. “I really want to dedicate this to all the men and women who defend our freedom.”
“We’re constantly working to drive awareness to PTSD and its consequences,” added President and executive board member of AFF, Patricia Driscoll – who is also Busch’s girlfriend. “Every 65 minutes, a veteran commits suicide. They need to know that help is out there. Hopefully, something as high profile as this can really help get the message to those who need it the most.”