Return to Indy brings double vision for Busch
July 25, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Engine woes bring Busch's double to early end
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Sometimes, he wonders if he could ever top it. And others, he can't resist the temptation to try.
Kurt Busch is back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the first time after a stirring double attempt in May that included a stellar sixth-place run in the Indianapolis 500. His focus this time around will be the annual Sprint Cup Series race at the Brickyard, an event in which Busch hasn't enjoyed a single-digit finish in over a decade. But wherever he goes this weekend, he can't help but encounter positive memories from his double attempt -- and questions over whether he'll do it again.
"That's been the big question -- would I come back and do it again," Busch said Friday. "Every day I wake up, it's like, 'Yes, let's do it again.' And then there's thoughts of, 'I finished sixth. That’s pretty special.' I don’t know if I can achieve that result again."
He has some time to make that decision. A more pressing matter is the Brickyard, where Busch hasn’t finished better than 10th since 2003, back in his days racing for Jack Roush. Although the two types of cars don't compare, the 2004 champion of NASCAR's top series is hoping the good feelings he developed toward this storied facility during his May efforts will help him improve during a much different event in the final days of July.
"I have a greater appreciation for the speedway, and I hope the respect I show it this weekend will help me bounce up on some of my results here at the track," Busch said. "It's been tough in a stock car here for me. The diamond-cut surface is one of the unique challenges in our sport, where the track is fast and the track is fresh when we first get out there. And then the track rubbers in after every practice session, and continues to get greasier and greasier, and that’s because the rubber is continuing to fill in those diamond-groove surfaces. The track goes through a big change throughout the weekend, and we'll adjust to the changing track conditions."
His third-place run at Pocono in June provides some optimism. The second turn at Pocono is modeled after one of the 90-degree corners at Indianapolis, so teams often turn to setup notes at one track to help at the other. "Our team has found a good rhythm since then," Busch said. "We're hoping to cash in on some of those setup notes and procedures."
Indeed the No. 41 team seemed to find its footing after Pocono, providing a boost to a program that -- despite its current 25th-place standing in points -- will likely be in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by virtue of its victory at Martinsville in March. At the Brickyard, though, it's impossible to escape the memories of May, something the driver can sense when he interacts with race fans in this area. Busch's double attempt ended prematurely due to an engine failure in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but he still radiates when talking about the experience.
"I really enjoyed it all the way through. … We're still writing thank-you notes. It's amazing the number of people we touched, and reached out to us," he said.
"It was a sense of personal accomplishment that I didn’t know I'd be able to attain. I genuinely have so many unique feelings from the whole experience."
Busch took on the double for many reasons, including challenging himself as a driver and raising awareness for military issues during Memorial Day weekend. He became just the fourth driver -- and the first in a decade -- to attempt the feat, and came 193.5 miles short of matching his team owner Tony Stewart, who remains the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles in the undertaking.
The full 1,100 miles "was the goal," Busch said, and the fact that he came so close to that elusive mark means part of the challenge remains out there, ready to be pursued once again. He said he hasn’t yet talked to Michael Andretti, who fielded his open-wheel entry, about reprising the double for 2015. But returning to Indianapolis, even for a Brickyard race in which he'll pilot his No. 41 car, makes the figurative wheels turn.
"Just like today coming back to the speedway, there are different moments of when it tells me -- yes, let's go do it again. And then there's moments of -- just wait, let things pan out. My focus right now is honestly that 41 car and the Chase that's coming up," Busch said.
"We'll have some talks again, we'll have some other dinners and time to hang out, and we'll see what presents itself. I'm more than willing to jump back in and try to do it a full 1,100 miles. Because that’s the objective, to complete all 1,100 miles. It's something special, and it's a target, and it's only been achieved once. It's very difficult to do."