Indianapolis 500 2014: Kurt Busch 'had to get back up on my horse’

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Kurt Busch was back in an IndyCar Friday for the first time since crashing in practice Monday.

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Kurt Busch crashed his car into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wall during practice Monday, it was Tony Stewart who offered the most sensible advice.

"He asked if I needed a bulldozer to move the Turn 2 wall," Busch said Friday.

That Busch has Stewart, who owns Busch's No. 41 NASCAR team, to lean on is a significant advantage for someone who is attempting to become the fourth driver to run the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.

"For me, my lack of experience in the IndyCar world is what makes this fun, exciting and challenging."-Kurt Busch

Of the three drivers who have attempted the double, Stewart is the most successful. He is the only member to run all 1,100 miles that comprise both races, doing so in 2001 -- he finished sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte. (Stewart also ran the double in 1999, but finished four laps down at Indy.)

It's a performance Busch is hoping to replicate.

"Tony Stewart set the benchmark for the double, finishing on the lead lap in both races," Busch said. "Top half of the field is what I am shooting for. To me, it's executing and being a professional about this whole thing."

An admittedly anxious Busch understands the circumstances are different from those who did the double before him.

Before transitioning to NASCAR, Stewart competed full-time in IndyCar, where he won the 1997 series championship. Stewart followed the same path as John Andretti and Robby Gordon, former open-wheel drivers who moved to NASCAR but still went back and ran the Indy 500.

An open-wheel background, however, is something Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, does not possess. He grew up racing Late Model stock cars in Las Vegas, and followed the common progression up the NASCAR hierarchy.

"I'm the least prepared of the individuals who have done the double," Busch said. They all came from the open-wheel world before settling into the NASCAR world. For me, my lack of experience in the IndyCar world is what makes this fun, exciting and challenging. At the end of the day, it's about giving it my best and not making a mistake on Sunday trying to get all 1,100 miles in."

Busch returned to the cockpit for the first time since his accident Friday for Carb Day, the final practice before the Indy 500. It was a key hour of practice for Busch, not only because he had to shake down a backup car, but also to regain some confidence after his first misstep in an open-wheel car.

"I had to get back up on my horse," said Busch, who posted the 15th-fastest time (224.684 mph). "That one-hour session was that old-school, happy hour thrash as we call it in the NASCAR world. It felt good to get back out there and get comfortable. I'd give it a B overall.

"There is a lot to be said about guys when they hit the wall, they lose confidence. I didn't lose my confidence. I just needed to make sure I didn't over-adjust the car when I got back in traffic."

Traffic will undoubtedly be Busch's biggest obstacle to a sound finish. His only time running with other drivers came when his Andretti Autosport teammates formed a five-car pack.

Another potential issue could be Sunday's opening lap, which features a three-wide start. Sharing Row 4 with Busch are Scott Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya, both former Indy 500 winners. Neither Dixon nor Montoya said they are concerned about Busch's lack of experience.

"The three-wide is a little bit different, but it's nothing too crazy," Dixon said. "It's just three-wide for the parade lap, then everyone cycles out fairly quickly. No concerns whatsoever."

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