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.”

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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