KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – The opportunity to be a spectator at any major sporting event can be an awe-inspiring occasion. Surrounded by tens of thousands of like-minded fans cheering for a common goal creates an adrenaline-filled experience for competitors and spectators alike. Elite events such as the Super Bowl and the World Series inspire an even more electric atmosphere for the simple reason that they are historic.
Now, take that major sporting event and place it on the hallowed grounds of one of the world’s most revered venues and the atmosphere becomes more than just a game. It’s a moment in time. While a handful of such venues have fallen by the wayside, many older venues continue to thrive in the modern sports world. A simple Google search yields a variety of lists featuring some of the nation’s most storied locations. From Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, these historic sites could be considered national landmarks for what they have meant to sports history and the competitive landscape that fans know today.
Certainly a fixture in most all listings of top historic sports venues is Indianapolis Motor Speedway – site of Sunday’s Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. The famed, 2.5-mile oval has been in existence for more than 100 years and has hosted more than 250 races since 1909. For most of its existence, Indianapolis had been a track for open-wheel racecars, but that changed when the Sprint Cup Series began contesting its annual Brickyard 400 there in 1994.
Driver Kurt Busch competed in his first Brickyard 400 during his rookie season in 2001. An avid sports fan himself, the significance of competing at Indianapolis is not lost on the 2004 Sprint Cup champion. Having been to Indianapolis as both a competitor and a fan, the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) understands the importance of being able to compete at the iconic facility.
Busch has made 15 career starts at Indianapolis and scored his best result there during his very first Indy start, finishing fifth after starting 34th in 2001. He has scored a total of five top-10 finishes during that 15-year stretch and has been running at the end of all but two races – the first in 2002 when he was sidelined due to an accident, the other in 2012 when his day ended prematurely due to an engine failure.
Busch’s experience at Indianapolis isn’t limited to just to competition at the speedway – be it in NASCAR, IndyCar or otherwise. He’s sat in the stands as a fan, taking in the sights and sounds from the other side of the fence, watching the famed Indianapolis 500. In 2014, he added his name to the list alongside only three other drivers who have attempted “The Double” – racing in both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. In an Indy car fielded by Andretti Autosport, Busch finished an impressive sixth, earning Indy 500 rookie of the year honors. After completing all 500 miles at Indy, Busch jetted off to Concord, North Carolina to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 that evening at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He raced competitively but, 271 laps into the longest race on the Sprint Cup schedule, engine problems sent Busch to the garage 129 laps short of the race distance. In all, Busch completed 906.5 miles, leaving Tony Stewart, co-owner with Gene Haas at SHR, as the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles in the grueling feat. Robby Gordon and John Andretti are the only other drivers to attempt The Double on the same day.
A win at the Brickyard this weekend would not only give Busch’s page of history at the 2.5-mile speedway a little more prestige, it would do so in fantastic fashion as the driver of the Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet is looking to finally score a win at Indianapolis and kiss the famed “Yard of Bricks” in celebration.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Give us your thoughts on heading to Indianapolis this weekend.
“Indianapolis has been tough on me over the years. I don’t know what it is about it. The diamond-cut surface, the way that the asphalt is very fresh when we first get there and then how it glazes over and gets slick at the end. I have struggled with that over the years. Just got to pace ourselves and find the right combination that will give us the grip once the track is rubbered in.”
What makes Indy so iconic?
“Indy is Indy. It is the coolest racetrack that we get to race on, other than Daytona. The history, the prestige, the value of Indianapolis – it is defined by the number of decades they have produced races there and the atmosphere. It’s very electric at Indianapolis. For me to actually get to run the Indy 500 in the month of May is a little different than when we race there in July-August because of the fact it is their backyard, it is their stage. Those Indiana natives love their track. What makes Indy special is the people.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine