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May 15, 2014

Johnson lends advice in Busch's double quest

Johnson believes stress will be Busch’s toughest opponent on May 25

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As he prepares to tackle both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indianapolis 500 on the same day, Kurt Busch is getting some fitness tips from one of the most fit drivers in the Sprint Cup Series garage — six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.


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“I’ve been talking with him some on fitness and hydration and nutrition,” Johnson, who competes in triathlons and rides a mountain bike in his free time, said. “He’s got a long, active month leading up to the big race next week. He and I have been chatting more about hydration and nutrition than anything.”

Busch has ramped up his training in preparation for the Memorial Day weekend double, which has been attempted by only three drivers previously, and none in the past decade. The 2004 NASCAR champion has been working with Okinawan karate champion Stanley Crump in a Maryland dojo in order to improve his physical conditioning for the 1,100-mile undertaking on May 25.

Busch was second in a rain-shortened Indy 500 practice on Tuesday, and has named Parker Kligerman as his standby driver for both the Sprint All-Star Race and 600. Kligerman will drive the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing car in All-Star practice Friday, given that Busch will be practicing at Indy the same day. The former Swan Racing driver will also be on hand for the 600 should circumstances at Indianapolis force Busch to miss the start of the race in Charlotte.

“I think he’s going to do an awesome job,” Johnson said. “I’ve always wondered if you take somebody from a low-downforce vehicle and put them in a high-downforce vehicle, to see how they would do. (Tuesday) is a great sign. I feel it’s more difficult for an open‑wheel guy to come to a stock car and have downforce taken away from them. I’ll be interested to see if that’s Kurt’s opinion, and how that all plays out in the end.”

Although Johnson and Busch have had their share of run-ins on the race track, the two champions have always maintained a healthy respect for one another. And Johnson believes Busch’s biggest opponent May 25 won’t necessarily be another competitor, but stress.

“Stress takes a big toll on the body,” Johnson said. “You’re stressed about your balance and your setup for your stock car. You’re stressed about your balance and setup for your IndyCar. Practice sessions. Are you eating, drinking, getting enough rest? Media obligations. On Sunday, is it going to affect the IndyCar race? Is the helicopter or plane on time? I think it’s stress. We all know what it does to our system. It wears you down pretty quick. I think it’s stress. He’s got a lot of stress on his plate right now.”


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