Here are some of the more pertinent quotes from today’s press conference with Kurt Busch, who tested an IndyCar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today and completed all three phases of the Rookie Orientation Program. Quotes courtesy Indycar PR/Amy Konrath.
MODERATOR: Kurt, first impressions? You spent two days here last week in a Cup car and today was a completely different feel. What are your thoughts?
KURT BUSCH: Just an incredible feeling to be able to drive at Indianapolis in May in and IndyCar and have the name Andretti on it. It was a dream come true, and to have, like you said, all the support of the engine, tires and team to put it together, I’m thankful for that chance.
And with the kid in the candy store feel early on, just getting settled in, that open cockpit is definitely a whole different game when bugs are hitting your visor instead of your windshield, that’s just the little small differences. And then you quickly try to ignore those and focus on the racing line, where you need to be on the racetrack to find the comfort, and as we progress through the rookie orientation side of it, you can see why that’s developed to help drivers get up to speed with the different phases of the mile an hour.
I couldn’t asked for more from Ray, the lead engineer, and to have Michael standing there and then Hinchcliffe came and put in his advice, and to have a driver like himself sit there and try to put my mind at ease is one thing. And then you have a legend with Michael telling me what to do, I couldn’t have asked for anything better, a treat that can’t be equaled to say the least. Maybe an F1 car, but we’ll stay right here.
On doing the double…
Honestly it’s very difficult to run at your peak performance for the Coca‑Cola 600. I mean, a driver can race here at Indianapolis, give a full 500 miles. That needs to be the end of his day. To run 600 miles after that you’ve got to pace yourself. I honestly think I wouldn’t be able to do it this year just with stamina, just with not giving my all for my Furniture Row team in Charlotte. I need to get more comfortable in the IndyCar because on a day like today, I’m white knuckle, my hands were tense and firm, and that was only after 10 laps.
And so then it started to settle in. So there’s the mental side of it, there’s the physical side, there’s the sponsorship side that has to come together, and right now with Kyle Moyer looking sideways at Michael, Michael wants to do it, but they’ve already got five cars committed to trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year.
To crawl, then walk, and then walk and then run, I think the proper thing is to go out and experience this car at another oval track and get into a race and experience what the buffeting is and the movement of the car when all the downforce changes.
Today was an ideal day. I couldn’t have asked for anything better as a rookie than to come to Indy to have the track prepped the way it was and then to have the perfect weather conditions.
Q. Following up on that a little bit, so if I heard you right, if you were considered with the names of Tony Stewart and the others that have done the double and somebody said Kurt Busch, you’re somebody that could end up doing the double, that’s something you’d like to try to do at some point?
KURT BUSCH: It’s hard to answer. There’s going to be a lot of swirling that goes on after a day like today. 218 on your first day is an achievement, but it’s not going to get you anywhere when it comes to racing here. If I’m going to do something, I want to do it at the best level that I can, so I need more time. But if my name is mentioned with guys like Tony Stewart and John Andretti and Robby Gordon, it isn’t a big feather in the cap, but it’s something to try to go and achieve. It’s something to try to just stretch yourself to the limits in the world of motorsport, and you have to do it with good teams. You just can’t expect to go out there and find success right away when your whole life has been spent in a stock car. You’ve got to give it time in an IndyCar.
Q. In NASCAR you drive on Goodyears and here it’s Firestone. Is there a big difference?
KURT BUSCH: That’s a good question. When I ran at Sebring 10 years ago with a Champ Car, it took laps for the tires to gain temperature and to feel the comfort and the grip level in the car.
Here today Michael is telling me, hey, the tires will have grip right away, go for it, and yet in my mind I’m just still a little bit hesitant because it’s an open‑wheel car and I need to ease into gaining the tire temperature.
And then the other thought from my stock car world is any time that I go back out on old tires I know I’m going to be a half a second slower here at Indianapolis, so your brain is taught to, okay, you’re on older tires, you know you can’t go run that lap time anymore, and then your IndyCar instincts come in, oh, wait, I’m supposed to hold it wide open, and then you’ve got to trust the downforce and trust the tire. So the Firestones are incredible with they don’t drop off, even though this track is very abrasive on chewing up tires.
Q. Talk about how Turn 1 maybe looks different, feels different than in a Cup car, and did you have to convince yourself you had to go flat?
KURT BUSCH: Today that was the biggest transition. When you want to step into the real world, that’s to hold it wide open, and when you do that, your brain says, wait a minute, you’re not supposed to do that because in the stock car how heavy it is and the lack of downforce. So when I did hold it wide open I was off on my line, actually apexed too early, had a little extra wheel input on exit, and it changed the game. But then once I left it on the floor, the car started to come back to me and the pace started to slow down in my mind, even though the pace kept getting quicker with lap time.
Q. When you started with IndyCar, did you immediately recognize you have to drive a different race line like in a Sprint Cup or is it more or less identical?
KURT BUSCH: Each corner demands a later apex, and so you’re hanging it out wider. Right where the marbles would be with a NASCAR car, that’s where the right side tires are with the IndyCar and you just do a later apex each of the four corners.