Kurt Busch: No talks yet on a second Indy-Charlotte double

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As he looked back on his May attempt to run all 1,100 miles of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, Kurt Busch admitted that he ponders over whether he could do it all over again.

“Every day I wake up and I’m like, ‘Yes, let’s do it again,'” Busch said today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before practice began for this weekend’s Brickyard 400.

“Then there are thoughts of ‘I finished sixth, that’s pretty special.’ I don’t know if I could achieve that result again.”

Busch finished a superb sixth for Andretti Autosport in the ‘500‘, which served as his first IndyCar race ever.

But in the ‘600,’ his No. 41 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet suffered engine failure and took Busch out with less than 194 miles to go in his bid to complete the Double.

So with that 1,100-mile goal still yet to be reached by him, there figures to be incentive to give it another shot next year.

The Outlaw said today that no talks have yet begun on a 2015 Double program but also noted that he was “more than willing” to run one.

“After the month of May and winding down through June, and just like today coming back to the Speedway, there’s different moments of when it tells me, ‘Yes, let’s go do it again,'” he said. “Then there’s moments of ‘Just wait, let things pan out.’ My focus right now honestly is that 41 car and the Chase that’s coming up.”

“We last year went to — I don’t remember which date it was, and said this has to be our cutoff. So I think we’ll have some talks again. We’ll have some other dinners and time to hang out. We’ll see what presents itself.

“I mean, I’m more than willing to jump back in and try to do a full 1,100 miles because that’s the objective, to complete all 1100. It’s something special and it’s a target, and it’s only been achieved once. It’s very difficult to do.”

Tony Stewart, Busch’s teammate and boss at SHR, remains the only driver to have run all 1,100 miles of the Indy-Charlotte double. He pulled off the feat in 2001, finishing sixth in the ‘500’ and third in the ‘600.’

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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