INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — From under the sun at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch was the busiest driver in motorsports this weekend.
His frequent flier miles are piling up in his quest to complete a racing feat known as "The Double."
On May 25, he'll try to race in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day — all 1,100 arduous miles.
It's two different styles of racing in two different cars, and if he succeeds, he'll show he's one of the most talented drivers in racing history.
But to do it, he'll be flying back and forth between both venues all week and the day of the race with little time to spare.
There was a dress rehearsal this weekend for race day and The Associated Press tagged along with Busch and his entourage by helicopter and plane for the Indy-North Carolina-Indy connection for two days of Indy 500 qualifying and NASCAR's All-Star race.
9:30 a.m., Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Rise and shine! Busch had trouble sleeping the night before Saturday morning practice.
Because rain washed out most of practice this week, Busch failed to get his car in some of the qualifying setups his Andretti Autosport team wanted to work on. Cool weather pushed practice back from the scheduled 8 a.m. start.
"Each day has been a nice step forward. Today, I had to take a big step," he said.
It was pretty big. He hit 230.984 mph in the No. 26 Honda and was fourth in the first practice session. Busch did get to relax a bit with dinner out on a Friday date night with his girlfriend and spokesperson, Patricia Driscoll. "My No. 1 PR girl," he said, smiling.
The dress rehearsal for The Double was off and running.
12:10 p.m., Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Welcome to Indy, rookie. A NASCAR veteran, Busch is still an IndyCar newbie, taking his first serious spins this month in the open-wheel car. All eyes have been on him, especially Driscoll's. Her arms folded, Driscoll keeps close watch on the IMS videoboard to monitor Busch's qualifying run. Busch whizzes by in a blur of 229.137 mph in one lap. Not bad for a first-timer. The public address announcer asks for applause. "Congratulations, Kurt Busch, you're in the top nine ... for the moment," he says. Busch is officially in the 500 field. But he wanted more. "Maybe I wasn't focused as I needed to be," he said. "Caught up in the emotion a little. Maybe I left a little out on the table with the car." He gives Driscoll a big kiss before hopping back in the car for a few rounds of pictures with different hats for all the sponsors.
Mid-afternoon. Busch motorhome, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Grub time. Busch turned into a fitness nut in the weeks leading up to The Double. Driscoll has put proper training and eating tips into his lifestyle, even mapping out his race weekend diet. Busch uses his down time picking on lamb, chicken, pasta and vegetables to fuel him for the races ahead.
2:10 p.m., Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Let's do it again. Convinced he can top his first run, Busch hits the track again at 2:03 p.m. for a second attempt at cracking the Fast Nine. Should he post one of the nine fastest speeds, he can contend for the pole — the driver out front of the 33-car field — on Sunday. The gamble pays off and Busch temporarily moves into third with a four-lap average of 229.960. "Why not go for it and try to get into that final group? I gave my heart a run at it. If we end up outside of the top nine, I know I gave it my all and that was really a neat experience."
2:35 p.m. Million Air private airport, Indianapolis.
After a quick helicopter ride, Busch, Driscoll, two reporters, a photographer and a cameraman board a Cessna Citation 750 X headed to North Carolina. The flight aboard the private plane that belongs to NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray will last a brisk 51 minutes over 372 miles with a top speed of about 606 mph. It's about the only ride Busch will find this weekend faster than his IndyCar.
2:57 p.m., Sky High
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