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DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) - My how things have changed for Kurt Busch, the sudden envy of the garage area at Darlington Raceway.
Busch set a track record in winning the pole for Saturday night’s race. Only nobody wanted to hear about his qualifying run, not when Busch could talk about turning laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy car.
Busch completed Indy’s Rookie Orientation Program on Thursday, hitting a top speed of 218 mph in defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car in a special one-day test that had NASCAR drivers dripping with jealousy.
“I thought it was a cool opportunity for him,” younger brother Kyle said. “I wish I would have been able to go do something like that, but I’ve just never really felt like it was my time.”
AJ Allmendinger will run the Indianapolis 500 this year for Penske Racing in the seat Tony Stewart passed on when Penske offered him the ride in December. Stewart last ran the 500 in 2001. Robby Gordon last did it 2004, and John Andretti, who last started a Sprint Cup race in 2010, made five consecutive Indy 500 starts from 2007 through 2011.
Busch has so far said the Indy 500 is not on the table this year _ Saturday was officially opening day at Indy _ but that he’s interested in pursuing the race in 2014.
“That’s amazing, an amazing experience. I’m proud of him,” said five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. “I’m really happy that a NASCAR driver has had a chance to go get in good equipment over there and go to a track and show what we can do.
“We’ve seen open-wheel guys come this direction and I’m happy to see a closed-body driver go that way. Not that it’s easy, in any of the vehicles, but I feel like it’s harder for an open-wheel guy to leave all of the down force in the light vehicle that they have and come to a NASCAR vehicle. I think the transition might be a little easier. Time will tell if Kurt pursues this further we’ll be able to see it, but I think he’ll impress early going that direction and getting out of the heavy car into a lighter car with more down force.”
Kyle Busch said he’s always been interested in dabbling in other forms of motorsports, and had to pass on a Formula One exhibition with Toyota when it conflicted with NASCAR’s season-ending awards banquet.
But he said there’s nothing stopping his older brother from pursuing this opportunity.
“If I was in Kurt’s position, then sure, I’d do it,” Kyle said. “I’ve always said that if I can ever win a Cup championship, that sort of suffices what you want to do over here. Of course you want to win more than one, but at least when you get one, I feel you can go venture off and do some other things. Like I said, if I was in Kurt’s shoes, I’d go do it, too.
“We’ll see. Maybe he’ll run the 500.”
For his part, Kurt Busch said he’s interested in putting together a sponsorship and marketing package for a proper Indy 500 deal in 2014. In the meantime, he’d be interested in running some IndyCar oval races this year to get some experience.
“We’ll see what the schedule looks like and see if there’s any opportunities to run a race or two,” Busch said. “I liked it. I really enjoyed it. You never know what might happen next.”
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