Busch narrowly missed a chance to compete for the pole when he posted the 10th-fastest qualifying time Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The top nine spots are eligible for the pole on Sunday.
Ed Carpenter's four-lap average of 230.661 mph was just ahead of Carolos Munoz for the top spot.
Busch made two attempts at Indianapolis to crack the top nine. He briefly posted one of the fastest speeds on his second run and had a grip on contention for a front row spot in the No. 26 Suretone Honda for Andretti Autosport. Not for long. He lost his spot and was on his way to North Carolina to race in NASCAR's All-Star race.
From his seat in a Cessna 750 Citation X, Busch scrolled through the rest of the qualifying times on his mobile phone. He had left IMS behind for a flight to Charlotte Motor Speedway and race in the $1 million Sprint All-Star Race.
Busch was knocked out with 39 minutes left in qualifying when 2000 Indy winner Juan Pablo Montoya surpassed Busch's speed of 229.960. The top nine all topped 230.
Busch could have bumped his way back into the fast nine had he not already left for NASCAR's All-Star race.
On Memorial Day weekend, Busch will try to race in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Only John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon have attempted The Double, and no driver has tried since Gordon in 2004. Only Stewart has completed both races.
"I can check 230 mph off the list," Busch said at CMS. "It's a hair-raising experience to put a car on edge for four laps. I had three, what I felt were moments, in the car. If I had had a fourth, I might not be here right now. I'm glad that we went as fast as we did today to make the Final Nine was really exceeding expectations."
Busch made a short helicopter ride from the golf course outside IMS to an airport, then took a 51-minute, 372-mile flight to Concord. One more quick helicopter trip later and he was the track, ready to change into his Stewart-Haas Racing gear.
He took a 20-minute nap on the plane.
Busch has received support from drivers and fans in both series as he pursues one of racing's rarest feats.
"Dale Junior has been tweeting about it. And I heard when I did do my qualifying run to get up as high as P3, Tony Stewart said congratulations," Busch said. "That one hit me hard just with the Indiana feel of everything. It's near. Everybody has been curious about it. There are still a lot of anxious moments and the speed is probably the most fun part. "
Busch was scheduled to return Sunday morning to Indianapolis and try and qualify as high as 10th for the 500.