The All-Star Doing Double Time
KANNAPOLIS, N.C.– One race weekend remains before NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star Race competitor Kurt Busch attempts “The Double” – racing in both the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 25. “The Double” is an all-star-type feat, successfully accomplished by only a four drivers in the history of auto racing
However, before the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) embarks on one of the most grueling feats in auto racing Memorial Day weekend, he has another $1 million payday on the docket that he would love to add to an already impressive all-star resume.
Drivers can qualify for the Sprint All-Star Race field by winning a Sprint Cup race in the current or previous season, by being an All-Star Race winner or Sprint Cup champion in the past 10 years, or a top-two finisher from Friday night’s Sprint Showdown – the last-chance race to make it into Saturday night’s main event – or by winning this weekend’s fan vote.
Busch has qualified for the All-Star Race three different ways. He won the 2004 Sprint Cup championship, the 2010 Sprint All-Star Race and the Sprint Cup race in March at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
The Las Vegas native would love to add a second win in the All-Star Race to his already impressive resume. Only six drivers have won the annual event more than once. Busch would join some of the biggest names in the sport – Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte and Mark Martin – as drivers with multiple All-Star wins.
But, in order for Busch to join that elite group, he will have to do it with limited practice time. Busch is planning to sit out Sprint All-Star practice Friday in order to focus on qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. Parker Kligerman, a former teammate of Busch at Team Penske and, more recently, of Swan Racing, will stand in for Busch in the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet.
SHR, the title-winning Sprint Cup team co-owned by three-time series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world – selected Kligerman in the event that Busch, who is commuting between Indianapolis and Charlotte this weekend and next, is unable to practice, qualify or start his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet at Charlotte due to a schedule conflict or logistical issue.
While Busch is scheduled to miss practice time Friday, he fully expects to be back at Charlotte Motor Speedway in time for Saturday’s drivers meeting, qualifying and the start of the Sprint All-Star Race. And just like any other time when Busch arrives at any racetrack, his eyes will be on the ultimate prize – times two.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How has your IndyCar preparation been going?
“It’s been an education. There are lots of new things to learn and it’s been an exciting time. The way the Andretti guys have helped me – the teammates have been unbelievable. I really have to thank each and every one of the folks at Andretti Autosport for their help. To bump into guys like A.J. Foyt at dinner and to talk to Rick Mears has been great. To talk to a guy that I thought would be a good crossover was Juan Pablo Montoya. It’s just neat. The names, the history and pacing yourself over the full time there at Indy – it’s a very different culture than you see during our normal weekends at the NASCAR venues.”
What is your plan for Friday?
“My plans on Friday are to go into full qualifying trim for the Indianapolis 500. That’s the first day that we get full turbo pressure, so the speeds will greatly increase on that Friday, and that makes it difficult to choose between running the IndyCar and running the stock car. It’s the first day that there is a big conflict so, to have Parker Kligerman shake down the car in Charlotte, that will help us tremendously. Parker Kligerman is about my size and he has good Sprint Cup experience. We worked together at Penske years ago when he was coming up through the Nationwide (Series) ranks. I think he is the best candidate to help us stay the course.”
What is your plan for Saturday?
“We’ll know how quick I can head to Charlotte based on our qualifying draw that comes out on Friday night. We don’t know when we will qualify on Saturday until late Friday night. At that point, that will help us understand what setup items we need to add or take away from the IndyCar, make our qualifying run, then head to Charlotte so that we are there in time for the drivers meeting and the unique qualifying where we come on to pit road, lay down two laps and have that pit stop. So, the All-Star atmosphere is fun. It’s electric and it has a loose feel to it. It’ll be fun to drop back into a more laid-back atmosphere and not have it be the full Coke 600 weekend.”
Does Saturday feel like it’s going to be a test run for you in terms of The Double?
“Yes, absolutely. The helicopter times, the planes – it’s just going to give us a pretty exact dry run of what we are expecting to see next week.”
What does it mean to you to be in the Sprint All-Star Race?
“It’s a who’s who of the Sprint Cup Series. It’s a big honor to be included in that race. Those are the winners, the top percent of our sport. To win that race a couple years ago was a special moment. To beat the best of the best, and then to receive a check from Sprint for $1 million, that’s a great feeling.”
What advice would you give a driver in the Sprint Showdown?
“The Showdown comes down to letting the rough edges drag. You’re not going to have a perfect setup and you have to gamble on whether you pit for tires or stay out. It all comes down to a Saturday-night, Late Model-type feel, where you have 40 laps to get it done.”
- Krista K. Massey
Former Group Vice President, Director of Sponsorships and Event Marketing
SunTrust Banks, Inc.