INDIANAPOLIS -- It is hard to judge who is loving the month of May more -- Kurt Busch in his preparations to compete in his first Indianapolis 500 or the Verizon IndyCar Series for having the 2004 NASCAR Spring Cup Series champion at its premier event.
Busch – who will start 12th in Sunday's 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 -- has both said all the right things to the media over the last few weeks and excelled on the track for Andretti Autosport by being the top qualifying rookie.
In a sport begging for attention, Busch has not only helped to introduce Outlaw Nation to IndyCar but done nothing but praise the sport and its competitors on IndyCar's biggest stage.
Sunday's second day of qualifying saw more of the same.
"These guys in this paddock are true competitors," said Busch after his qualifying run. "The finesse and the precise inputs you have to give these Indy cars to get the (extra) mile an hour out of them ... these guys are the experts. They have been doing it for years."
Busch should not sell himself short as he has displayed the ability to acclimate himself well to open-wheel racing. His four-lap qualifying average of 230.782 is sixth quickest on the grid and he holds the fourth-fastest practice lap of the month at 231.775 mph.
The adjustment process has been complicated at times for Busch over the last few weeks, most recently on Saturday in going from Indianapolis 500 qualifying to the NASCAR All-Star Race in a matter of hours. He said Saturday was a good "practice run" for Sunday's double.
"It was a good exercise (Saturday) to have the helicopter and plane rides back and forth," said Busch in talking about his trips from Indiana to North Carolina and back. "I had so much fun. It was so much of a different element that I've never been exposed to.
"I'll never be able to duplicate a day like that in a race car probably ever again, except Sunday."
Drivers in NASCAR have bombarded Busch with questions in recent weeks regarding Indianapolis and driving Indy cars, particularly on Saturday after qualifying.
"Everybody was curious," Busch said. "Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., Jimmie Johnson, (Jamie) McMurray the winner (of the All-Star Race) I spent the most time talking to.
"It is interesting to see their level of interest and they are intrigued by it."
Busch does his best to describe the differences between the two disciplines, but it can be tough.
"It's very difficult to explain 230 to a guy that wrestles a stock car around every day."
With a few practice days and the Indianapolis 500 still looming, Busch hopes his one regret is the only one he has once the month is out. He sat third quick on Saturday before heading to Charlotte, hoping it would be good enough to make the Fast Nine shootout on Sunday for the pole.
He ended up being bumped to 10th by the end of the day.
"I hope this is the biggest thing I want to look back on and change ... and that is I should have stayed for the Fast Nine," Busch said. "If that's the only moment we do wrong in this endeavor, then I can hang my hat very high."
The lead-up to the fourth driver to ever attempt "The Double" has been a success for both Busch and the Verizon IndyCar Series.
We will see what race day brings on Sunday.
"To be on the fourth row of the Indy 500 is an accomplishment," Busch said. "I'll give it a thumbs-up."
(c)2014 The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
Visit The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.) at www.news-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services