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Paulk: Busch eyes stunning Memorial Day double

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 6:18 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS – As Kurt Busch kept inching closer and closer atop the leaderboard during the Indianapolis 500 time trials Saturday, one had to wonder what his performance said about the level of competition in the IndyCar Series.

It might be comparing apples to oranges, but one of NASCAR's best clearly outperformed many of those who make their living in the IndyCar Series. Busch got in a couple of practice sessions earlier this week, then surprisingly challenged for a spot in the Fast Nine.

Busch, who earlier this year cemented a spot in the Chase with a win at Martinsville, didn't have time to stick around to consult with his Andretti Autosport engineers. He hurried left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to catch a flight to Charlotte, N.C., for the Sprint Cup All-Star race.

Busch was sitting in ninth as he landed in Charlotte late Saturday afternoon. Soon thereafter, Juan Pablo Montoya bumped him from the Fast Nine — qualifiers who will compete for the pole Sunday.

Already, Busch is assured of having a chance to win the Memorial Day weekend double. He will compete at the Brickyard on May 25, and then fly to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600.

Let's face it, Busch isn't likely to win either races. However, he has the guts and talent to stun everyone — except himself.

Admittedly, Busch was out of his element at the Brickyard. He's run here in the Brickyard 400, but that is a totally different animal than the one he will face in the 200-lap race next weekend.

“I've qualified Pro Stocks on the quarter-mile. I've done the longest track on the NASCAR circuit (Talladega), but to do four laps here…that's a 10-mile run. It's the longest I've had to focus on a qualifying run.

“Just the shear excitement of trusting a car with downforce going down into Turn 1 at 230 mph is indescribable. Those four laps felt like one — 230 is a totally different game.

“I wasn't as nearly focused as I needed to be,” he added. “The moment of Indy can kind of overtake you.”

Busch didn't have a problem holding it together at the Brickyard. He inspired other drivers — including Indy 500 champions Scott Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya — to at least consider giving the Memorial Day double a try.

“There's no doubt he's a fantastic driver,” Dixon said. “Maybe one day one of us (Chip Ganassi Racing drivers) will get that opportunity to see what it really is like.”

Chip Ganassi, a Fox Chapel native whose drivers will compete at the Brickyard and Charlotte, quickly quipped, “Careful.”

Dixon maybe envious, but Busch is serious about winning both races. If he were to win the Indianapolis 500, all of NASCAR would celebrate and IndyCar drivers will scratch their heads.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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