5.15.2014 (via FOXSports.com) – As morning rains and a thick, dark gray sky hovered over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for what was supposed to be the fourth day of practice for the 98th Indianapolis 500 on Wednesday, Kurt Busch cut out of town to head back to his "Day Job" as driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet at Stewart Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He flew back to North Carolina to get his Cup car up to speed for this week's Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But he is already up to speed as a rookie driver in the Indianapolis 500.
In Tuesday's practice session, that was rained out after just 97 minutes of activity, Busch clocked off the second-fastest lap of the day at 224.159 miles per hour in a Dallara/Honda. Although that lap was aided by a "tow' (in NASCAR teams, the draft) Busch's lap is the third-fastest combined lap of all the practices so far.
Already a supremely confident driver, that early speed has exceeded Busch's greatest expectations.
"It definitely wasn't on my radar," Busch said. "But what I've been able to do as a student is each day progress at a strong rate, and progressing is being able to digest the information and then being able to apply it the next day. Each day out, the Andretti Autosport team has helped me with a game plan on what's next, so it's nice when you can have a solid forecast of what to expect.
"As far as guys getting tows and posting those good laps, some of my drafting experience helps from what I've seen at Daytona and Talladega; Indianapolis has a little bit of Darlington characteristics into it. What I mean by that is you have to be single file and you have to know which corner you are approaching at all times, and it's a matter of give and take with the other drivers out on the track.
"I haven't been around many guys, mostly the Andretti guys but it's been thumbs up right now. It's been nice to continue to find speed and to feel more comfortable in the car in the traffic."
Craig Hampson is the man directing Busch's Indianapolis 500 effort at Andretti Autosport. The race engineer has been impressed with Busch's ability to give useful feedback to the team regarding his laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also is not surprised because he knew Busch was a smart driver.
"Within the people I know in NASCAR, Kurt is well regarded for his driving talent," Hampson said. "He has fast hands. He has good car control. That has been evident from the start. The speed is not a problem for him at all. He has been very methodical in the way he has worked up to it. He has had a lot of very intelligent questions and good observations about the car. He is clearly a true professional – a top-class driver.
"It's a different vehicle for him but all the same things that you have to look for in terms of the handling of the car and what it does in traffic and what you need to do with the setup and how to get ready for the race and take care of tires he already knows those things are important so we are well up to speed for that type of thing."
Busch's feedback has been extremely useful to the Andretti Autosport crew although the vocabulary some things has a NASCAR quality to it.