Kurt Busch Has A Golden Ticket
Can these two make "Double Duty" work?
He's been called one of the most talented wheelmen in NASCAR today. He's also been called one of its most immature, someone whose ability on the track has been crushed by his stunning ineptitude off of it. But right now, Kurt Busch is holding a golden ticket to get back into the hearts of NASCAR fans everywhere. The only question is whether or not Busch will be able to keep it together long enough to cash that ticket in and secure his spot in NASCAR for decades to come.
The golden ticket comes in the form of a partnership with Andretti Autosport for a possible run at the Indianapolis 500, the highest-drawing race on the American motorsports calendar. A recent article by Kenny Bruce indicated that Busch is looking at the possibility of competing in an IndyCar race later this year to get his feet wet. Busch tested with Andretti's team at Indianapolis earlier this year and all indications are that Andretti would gladly put together the equipment necessary for Busch to compete for the team again. The ultimate goal would be to prepare Kurt to make a run at Indy in 2014.
Link to fulltext of Kenny Bruce article on Busch
Tony Stewart, former Indy Champion
In years past, a handful drivers such as Tony Stewart competed in both the Indy 500 and the Coke 600 in the same day. Some speculated that Danica Patrick might make the attempt, but given her level of success in NASCAR so far, the odds are highly against her being competitive in either race should she even choose to make the attempt. Stewart has a standing offer from Roger Penske to try again but his status as a team owner makes him acutely aware of the off-track responsibilities he carries already. It's one thing to jump in a Sprint car and hit the dirt on an off day. It's another thing entirely to commit to the month-long process that's required to race competitively at Indy.
No one has ever done the Indy/Charlotte sweep. Of the three drivers who've tried (Stewart, Robbie Gordon, and John Andretti), Stewart has been the closest. In 1999, his first attempt at the double, he finished ninth at Indy and fourth in Charlotte. Two years later he bettered both finishes, climbing to sixth at Indy and third in Charlotte. It was his last attempt at both races. Robby Gordon was the last driver to make the effort, most recently in 2004. That effort was washed out early with rain at IMS and a back-up driver actually took the car on-track. The main reason why no one tried in the intervening years was the schedule change for the 500 that saw a later green flag than in years past.
Thanks to the green flag being moved back as of 2011, it's once again possible for a driver to pull the double. And Kurt Busch might very well be just the driver to not only make the attempt but to do so with a win in one or both of the races.
Your Next All-Star...
I Love You Momma Speed!
Kurt has shown himself these last two years of being someone who can get the absolute best possible effort out of his equipment. He spent much of 2012 driving for James Finch's underfunded Phoenix Racing team. While they receive engines, chassis and technical support from Hendrick Motorsports, they clearly are not running the top shelf items. Moreover, Finch's limited budget and sponsorship meant that there was absolutely no margin for error. When a car was lost they didn't have a brand new backup sitting on the hauler. Engines didn't get changed on a weekly basis. They had to make do with what was on hand and Busch did precisely that.
This year, he's revived the fortunes of Denver-based Furniture Row Racing. Best known for Regan Smith's 2011 victory at Darlington, Furniture Row has been a part of the Sprint Cup series since 2005 and had run 143 races at that level since joining the sport. In those 143 races, they had Smith's one win, a pair of top fives and ten top ten finishes. Their average finish was an abysmal 28.2. In 2013, Busch has led the team to four top fives, eight top tens, and an average finish 11 spots higher at 17.2. The sponsor hasn't changed. The technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing was there years before Busch arrived. Its been his presence behind the wheel and in the shop that has elevated the team from back marker to Chase contender.
Yet that success only came because Busch torpedoed a championship-level ride at Penske Racing. Time after time, Busch proved incapable of controlling his temper and became his own worst enemy. The last straw for Penske was Busch's tirade against ESPN pit reporter (and well-respected member of the NASCAR media for decades) Dr. Jerry Punch. You can watch his temper tantrum below
Kurt Busch Melts Down on Dr. Jerry Punch
A Sense Of Humor
A run at the double could finally rebuild the bridges that Busch so carelessly burned behind over the past years. Media coverage would be heavy in the weeks leading up to the races, bringing much-needed attention to whatever sponsor was on the side of his car. Profiles of Busch, while including his past meltdowns, would also remind viewers that Busch is a former Sprint Cup champion. Fans would also be treated to a series of cameos from team members talking about just how impressive Busch has been behind the scenes in maximizing the performance of his team. A handful of these items have occurred in the last few weeks thanks to the improvement at Furniture Row. A media-friendly event like the double would increase them tenfold.
That's just for making the effort to drive two of America's premier racing events in one day.
Now imagine he wins. Should Busch be able to pull into victory lane at either event, it would be a media circus the likes of which we haven't seen in NASCAR since Patrick's Nationwide debut. Only in this case, the circus would revolve around someone that traditional NASCAR fans would love. Old school fans have clamored for someone to pick up the mantle of Dale Earnhardt Sr, the man who stood up for himself and would do anything to win. Several have tried but none have been able to do it in the years since Earnhardt's passing. A win in the double might well be the thing that gives Kurt Busch a chance to do so.
Another Movie In The Making?
NASCAR fans have a strong superiority complex relative to Indycar racing. Fair or unfair, they've seen a host of open-wheel drivers try their hand at NASCAR and most of them faded away quickly. Stewart made the switch successfully but his example was the exception that proved the rule. Indycar champions such as Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr. found that a heavy stock car was a very different animal and failed to make the kind of impact they were expected to have. Naturally, NASCAR fans take that to mean that NASCAR is the more difficult discipline. If Busch wins the Indy 500, he's essentially proving that assumption true and NASCAR fans will love him for it. Even if he doesn't win, if he does well and leads laps, he'll gain much the same benefit.
And if he fails? So what. Busch has never been an open wheel racer. Even if he runs at Auto Club this fall, the 500 would be his baptism by fire in an Indycar. He's not supposed to win. He's not even supposed to make the field. But for the man who once drove a Talladega Nights-themed car in an actual race, that's nothing new. So run both races, Kurt. And don't stop running until you reach victory lane. After all, what do you have to lose?