Kurt Busch may spend as much time in the air as on the track at Indy, Charlotte

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Kurt Busch’s quest to become the first NASCAR driver in a decade to attempt the “Double” – racing in the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, and then flying to Charlotte to compete in that evening’s Coca-Cola 600 – just became even more challenging.

Of course, Busch has to weigh what he’ll do if there’s rain at Indianapolis on race day. But he’ll have an even more unique hurdle to get over the weekend before.

Because of Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s new qualifying format, announced Friday, Busch will qualify at Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, May 17, hop a plane almost immediately and high-tail it to Charlotte to race in that evening’s Sprint All-Star Race.

Busch doesn’t want to miss that race, which he’s already won once in 2010 (and then doubled-up the following weekend by winning the 600). While the All-Star event doesn’t pay any points, it does pays a cool $1 million-plus to the winner.

If Busch wins the All-Star race, he won’t have long to celebrate. He’ll be hopping back on a plane to get back to Indy because he’ll have to get back in his Andretti Autosport open-wheeler to determine his starting spot during yet another qualifying session on the following day (Sunday).

Had the 500 still been under the old qualifying format, and if he didn’t need to make the 33-car field on Sunday’s former “Bump Day,” Busch likely would have locked himself into the so-called Greatest Spectacle in Racing on that Saturday. That way, he wouldn’t have had to go to Charlotte and turn back around afterward.

If there’s one good thing about it for Busch, though, at least he has his own plane. Can you imagine trying to do both weekends flying commercially?

Oh yes, one more thing about both weekends if you’re a Busch fan: pray for no rain.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.