Kurt Busch has “experience of a lifetime” in IndyCar test at IMS

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From the beginning, former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch was very much impressed by what an IndyCar can do at over 200 miles per hour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“That was wild,” Busch exclaimed according to Andretti Autosport after the first run of his test session this morning in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 1 DHL/Sun Drop Chevrolet. The session was originally to close around lunch time in Indianapolis, but was extended into the early afternoon.

When on-track activity ended, the man known as “The Outlaw” told his crew: “Experience of a lifetime. Thank you, guys.”

Busch ran 83 laps, had a fast lap of 218.210 miles per hour, and passed all three phases of a simulated Rookie Orientation Program at the Speedway — which all first-time Indianapolis 500 racers must pass in order to compete in practice and qualifying. IMS says that Busch has now been licensed to drive an IndyCar.

“It’s a incredible feeling to be able to drive in Indianapolis in May in an IndyCar with the name Andretti on the car,” said Busch, who admitted to having a “kid in the candy store” sort of feeling during his opening laps.

“I couldn’t have asked for more from Ray [Gosselin], the lead engineer, and to have [team owner] Michael [Andretti] standing there — and then [James] Hinchcliffe came and put in his advice. To have a driver like himself just sit there and try to put my mind at ease is one thing, and then you have a legend like Michael telling me what to do. I couldn’t have asked for anything better — a treat that can’t be equaled, to say the least.”

Busch has indicated a possible interest in becoming the first driver since Robby Gordon in 2004 to sign up for “Double Duty” and attempt to run both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day. However, Busch says that he’d prefer to have more time to learn about driving an open-wheel car before he’d feel ready to attempt the feat next year.

“This day and age, everyone wants more,” he said after his test. “When you have extra energy into any race, it makes it more exciting it for everyone involved. When you have sponsors wanting to be involved. It’s difficult to be done to be in peak performance for the Coca-Cola 600.

“I wouldn’t be able to do [the double] this year because of stamina. Today, I was white knuckled and tense, and that was only after 10 laps. To crawl and then walk and then walk and run, I think the next step is to go to another oval and another race and see how the car runs in traffic.”

As for Michael Andretti, he was complimentary of Busch’s performance in today’s test.

“We wanted to do it a proper way, mostly for Kurt,” he said. “We wanted him to have a real experience and we wanted to make some changes that he could feel, and he could start to understand a little bit more about what to expect with the car in different conditions and different setups. I think we were able to achieve that, so I would say the day went as good as we could’ve expected.”

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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