KANNAPOLIS, N.C.– Kurt Busch, 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), spent the week in Indianapolis announcing his sponsor and attending rookie orientation for the Indianapolis 500. The week kicked off his attempt at “The Double” – racing both the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 25.
Busch is drawn to the challenge of The Double – two of the most prestigious races in auto racing, on auto racing’s biggest day of the year, in two different cities separated by nearly 600 miles, and 1,100 miles of racing in one day.
While the logistics are challenging, so are the different styles of racecars.
A NASCAR Sprint Cup Chevrolet SS weighs 3,300 pounds without a driver and contains a cast-iron, 358-cubic-inch V8 estimated to produce 850 horsepower at 9,000 rpm – and the car has fenders. An IndyCar Series car weighs 1,545 pounds without a driver and contains a 2.2-liter, 234.25-cubic-inch turbocharged V6 that produces approximately 700 horsepower at 12,000 rpm – and the car is open-wheel.
Each car handles and drives very differently on a racetrack, both by itself and in traffic.
While Busch travels back and forth from NASCAR events in Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, and Charlotte to his tests, practices and media responsibilities in Indianapolis over the next four weeks, it will be up to crew chief Daniel Knost to make sure things on the NASCAR side keep moving in the right direction.
Knost and Busch will keep in constant contact during the month of May as Busch prepares to run The Double. Knost and crew will continue to work each week, as they already do, to give Busch a car capable of winning when he buckles in to take the green flag.
Knost, now 10 races into his rookie campaign as a Sprint Cup crew chief, already has one Sprint Cup win on his resume. He helped Busch end an 83-race Sprint Cup winless streak at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March when he secured his first and only win as the team leader.
Knost knows the No. 41 team’s win at Martinsville virtually guarantees the team a spot in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, but adding a second win would cement its place in the 10-race playoff. SHR teammate Kevin Harvick and Team Penske driver Joey Logano are the first two drivers to score multiple wins on the season, and Busch is one of five single-race winners as the series heads to race 10 of 36.
In 26 career starts at Talladega, site of Sunday’s Aaron’s 499, Busch has six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s with an average finish of 16th. He also has led 148 laps at Talladega, including three laps led the last time the series visited there in October 2013.
DANIEL KNOST, Crew chief of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you think of Kurt Busch’s decision to run “The Double?”
“Probably any racecar driver would want to run in what is probably the biggest race in the world, and then come down and run one of the biggest NASCAR races to follow that up. Anybody who is a competitor would probably be into that type of a challenge. It’s challenging physically. It’s mentally challenging to run two different types of cars. I think it’s challenging emotionally to run 1,100 miles with all of the logistics in the middle, so I understand why he wants to do it. I wish him the best of luck in it. As far as the guys on the No. 41 team, our focus is what we need to do in the Charlotte race. We will try and get as much of Kurt’s time and feedback as we can. We’ll work that feedback into what we’re doing and I’m sure the IndyCar team will do the same on its end.”
Is this going to present challenges on the Sprint Cup side?
“I think the biggest challenge will be the limited access to the driver. He’s got a lot of work and a big learning curve to do up there. The good news is, he’s driven stock cars for a long time and has been very successful, especially at Charlotte but, really, all the racetracks that we’re going to during this period. I’d say, for us, the biggest challenge is the limited amount of time with our driver.”
What challenges does Talladega present to a race team?
“This weekend in Talladega, the biggest thing I’m looking for is to survive practice and qualifying without incident and in one piece. Once you get into the race, it’s mostly in the drivers’ hands in terms of how they make it through the draft and when they make their moves. From our perspective, we want to keep things with as few dents and scrapes as we can, and hopefully give him something that is capable of running up front, so he doesn’t have to work too hard, and have good pit stops to keep him up front when the time comes. We just need to be in position to go when it’s time to go.”
What are you expecting for knockout qualifying at Talladega?
“I’m not sure what to expect from qualifying. I think it is going to be a mad scramble. Typically, in order to get a good lap, you’re going to have to be behind people and making moves. I fully expect that there will be a big one in qualifying and I just hope that neither we nor any of our teammates are anywhere near it.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine