Kurt Busch amped for IndyCar test at IMS with Andretti

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Today, Kurt Busch will do something he hasn’t in 10 years: test an open-wheel car. And he’ll be doing at IndyCar’s most hallowed ground: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion who races for Furniture Row Racing and outside of NASCAR has also tested and raced in Australian V8 Supercars and NHRA Pro Stock, will take over Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 1 DHL Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport. He had a seat fitting on Wednesday.

“This is big time. To have Andretti give you a call in the Month of May… I’m a stock car guy,” Busch admitted.

The test is being hailed as a possibility for doing the double of the 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in 2014. Busch called on former IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr., now a Penske Racing driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, for tips on how to handle the Speedway in an IndyCar.

“There are (nerves) for sure. I called Sam Hornish Jr., a guy I worked with at Penske for years,” he said. “I was the mentor. He was the student. I flopped it on him and called him this morning and got some good advice. There’s never anything to prepare you for holding a car wide open going into Turn 1 at Indianapolis. In my discipline, I have to lift at the 1 marker in a big, heavy stock car. Sam said there’s a speed side of it and the experience of a rear-engine car.”

Busch will go through the traditional phases of rookie orientation, and see where that leads going forward.

“I wouldn’t call it an audition,” he said. “I think the most important part is to have the fun with it first, and then let the business side take care of itself later.”

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”