Work in the dojo readies Busch for the double
May 09, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Kurt Busch may have a secret weapon in his quest to conquer the double on Memorial Day weekend.
The 2004 champion of NASCAR's premier series has been training in a dojo with a martial arts master as he prepares to take on both the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500 on May 25. Busch will become just the fourth driver to attempt the feat -- joining John Andretti, Robby Gordon, and Tony Stewart, the co-owner of his No. 41 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car at Stewart-Haas Racing -- and the first in a decade, after Gordon's most recent bid in 2004.
Busch has already been fine-tuning his open-wheel car, taking part in a pair of rookie practices in preparation for the official opening of activities at Indianapolis on Sunday. And he's also been fine-tuning his physical fitness, ramping up his training with Stanley Crump, a black belt and former world heavyweight champion of Okinawan karate who operates a dojo in Ellicott City, Maryland, where Busch lives part-time with his girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll.
"I'm learning with Karate Stan," Busch said Friday at Kansas Speedway, where the Sprint Cup tour competes Saturday night. "He's worked with a lot of pro athletes in the Baltimore area, seen a lot of Ravens, seen a lot of Orioles, and has worked with a lot of athletes in all different forms of sports. So it's been neat to teach him about motorsports, and then what I'll need for this IndyCar. He grasped it so quickly, it wasn't like we weren't wasting a long time on explanations on what motorsports is about."
Carl Edwards, generally universally regarded as one of the fittest drivers in the garage area, is among those interested in seeing how Busch's preparations for the double pay off. "To do (Indianapolis) plus the Coke 600 that day, I think is going to be amazing," Edwards said. "If he's able to accomplish that, I will have a lot of respect for him."
Busch said his normal fitness routine would include strength training and about 30 minutes of interval running. Now, Sensei Stan has him running the mile-and-a-half round trip to the dojo, and keeping his heart rate elevated above 140 beats per minute while he's there. "I would say just ramping it up times three, really," Busch said. Former SHR driver and resident fitness guru Mark Martin also dispenses occasional advice.
"Mark has been very helpful to just point out quick things, like an old master, and old Jedi guy -- 'You need to do this, you need to that,' " Busch said. "Just those one-liners to find advice by."
Busch said he is working particularly on upper-body strength, and his hands have been sore after the first few open-wheel practices "just from the death grip on the wheel," he said. And while his current program is designed to help him withstand the physical rigors of the double -- not to mention the numerous airplane trips that will be necessary between Indianapolis and Concord, N.C., as he juggles practice and qualifying sessions over the next two weeks -- he also believes it will ultimately help him prolong his NASCAR career.
"It's just been a lot of fun to get into depth in a lot more areas, and I think that’s going to help me, being 35 years old in the Cup garage, with another strong 10 years," he said. "Ramping up this Indy format is going to prolong my activity level here in the Cup garage."
Because stock car racing, Busch emphasizes, remains his primary focus despite all the attention on the Indianapolis end of his double attempt. And those final 600 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway may be where all that work with Sensei Stan pays off the most.
"At the end of the day, there still is the full second half of this double. There's still a stock car race," Busch said. "There's a 600-mile event where I'll be driving the Haas Automation Chevy, and this team that I'm with -- they're rooting me on, but I still have my job to do when I show up. There still has to be a lot of focus around the stock car side of this."