INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kurt Busch successfully completed the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, taking the first step in his bid to become the second driver to finish the prestigious race as well as the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.
Busch finished sixth in Indy after starting 12th.
"The Double" has been attempted by just three drivers, the last being Robby Gordon in 2004. Only one, Tony Stewart in 2001, successfully completed the two races, finishing sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Ahead for Busch was a helicopter ride and then a private jet to Concord, North Carolina, in a bid to get to the second race Sunday night. He will start 28th in NASCAR's longest race of the season.
With the eyes of the racing world on him, Busch was behind the wheel of the No. 26 Honda for Andretti Autosport in Indianapolis. He was cool, confident and well rested, getting about nine hours of sleep the night before race day.
Busch was all smiles before the race. Fans shouted encouragement at Busch as he rode a golf cart through Gasoline Alley, one yelling: "Good luck today, Kurt, times two!" Busch spent time with his parents, girlfriend Patricia Driscoll and her son, Houston, and received pre-race well wishes from racing heavyweights like car owner Chip Ganassi and rapper and actor Ice-T.
"Go get 'em," Ice-T said.
Busch kept the schedule light Sunday morning, attending mass with his family in his motorhome. He watched a little "Gilligan's Island" and got a sendoff from his parents, Tom and Gaye Busch. She gave him a big hug and said it was a "mother's duty to worry."
"This one does make me more nervous," she said. "It's the Indy 500. It's a special one ... I'll tell him good luck and be safe. Oh my gosh, please be safe."
Even though the attempt wasn't promoted heavily by IndyCar or NASCAR — the races air on different networks and multiple sponsors were involved, clouding the possibilities — Busch's debut in Indianapolis brought some definite buzz to the "Greatest Spectacle In Racing," the crown jewel race of the IndyCar Series and one of the most prestigious in the world.
His fellow NASCAR drivers were keeping track of his progress.
"He's representing the entire sport," NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "Whether he knows it or not, he's got a lot of people, drivers, crew and just about everyone on the infield pulling for him to do well because he is representing all of us."
Busch's whirlwind schedule ahead of race day included a rigorous regimen of training and several flights between the two racetracks to get himself ready for motorsports' version of climbing Mount Everest. The 35-year-old Busch has trained like a boot camp cadet in Maryland to whip his body into top shape to handle the heat, travel and weariness that will come.
Busch's diet was fine-tuned to get him ready for the grueling day. His Sunday morning breakfast included: Eggs, bacon, whole grain toast, water, coffee and 16 ounces of beet root juice. On the flight to North Carolina, Busch will try to eat oatmeal with raisins, a banana, beef jerky, beet root juice and sugar water with electrolytes infused with oxygen.
A big part of the challenge for Busch was getting used to the Indy car.
At 1,500 pounds, the cars are much lighter and have less horsepower than the 3,500-pound stock cars in NASCAR Busch usually drives. IndyCar drivers have to anticipate the next move faster, especially when cars race side-by-side. The contact so familiar among cars in a NASCAR race is out of the question in IndyCar, where the cars are more susceptible to high-flying flips and the open cockpits leave drivers exposed to flying debris.