It may just be one teammate talking up the merits of another teammate, but IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe believes NASCAR driver and Indy car rookie Kurt Busch is a legitimate contender to win the Indianapolis 500 in his first-ever start there on May 25.
“He’s in an Andretti Autosport car so I definitely believe he can win,” Hinchliffe told PopularSpeed.com’s Matt Weaver.
Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won Sunday’s IndyCar race in Birmingham, Ala., will both be Busch’s teammates in the 500, and it could wind up being a great day for Andretti Autosport.
“I think we’re going to be strong in the race and I think we’ve showed that the past couple of years,” Hinchcliffe said. “(Busch is) a professional. He has more professional races under his belt than the rest of the field combined with as many races as NASCAR runs and I’m sure he’s going to adapt pretty quickly.”
Busch, who will undergo his first day of rookie orientation on Tuesday, is hoping to become the first driver to attempt the so-called “double” since Robby Gordon’s third try at the feat in 2004.
Other drivers who have attempted 1,100 total miles across two races on two diametrically opposite types of tracks and in completely different types of race cars include John Andretti and NASCAR star Tony Stewart.
Having been friends with Busch since he won the first Sprint Cup championship in 2004, Hunter-Reay told Weaver that even if he wasn’t Busch’s teammate for the 500, he still would his effort in high regard.
“For Kurt to do what he’s doing, it takes a lot of guts,” Hunter-Reay told Weaver. “To jump out of your Cup car and hop into an Indy car and immediately hop right back into a Cup car, I respect him for that.”
(Of course, if that happens, it’s likely Busch won’t make it to Charlotte for the green flag, given all the post-500 celebrations, trophy presentations, interviews and other commitments he’d have to take part in.)
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