Auto Racing / Sports

2 races in 1 day for 1 driver

INDIANAPOLIS --While a quarter-million sun-soaked fans crank up the volume on the party that is the Indianapolis 500, Kurt Busch will find a quiet spot to prepare for the most challenging day of his life.

Big races are not new to him. He's a NASCAR champion , a 35-year-old who has competed on wheels for two-thirds of his life.

But Sunday will be Busch's first time participating in the most historic and prestigious motorsports event in the world -- with its century of history andtradition -- and his first time starting three-abreast in a 230 mph car with no roof overhead.

Then, Busch will fly to North Carolina and take another shot at another big race, 600 miles at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

So before the 33 drivers are introduced for the Indianapolis 500, before Jim Naborsvand Florence Henderson sing and before the first engine fires, Busch will huddle with the Rev. Dale Grubbav, a 73-year-old Catholic priest from small-town Wisconsin he asked to be a source of strength and calm throughout racing's longest day.

"Having him on my side, it's great to have a pastor riding shotgun with me this weekend," Busch said Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"Eleven hundred miles is a tough task. I'll hold anything I can to help me through."

Grubba will say Mass for Busch -- as he has at a handful of NASCAR races each of the past few seasons -- before the pageantry begins and then offer one more blessing before he and Kurt'sBusch's family leave the grid.

"I can't imagine what it's going to be like for Kurt," said Grubba, who wasn't quite sure what they would be able to do in the short time between their hour-longvflight to Charlotte and the start of that race.

"To me it's a very humbling experience that Kurt, with all that he's got going on, would ask me to be there with him and not only be there with him, but be there right till the end till he actually gets in the car."

Crossover between racing disciplines once was relatively common, with Indy legends such as Foyt and Mario Andretti and Al Unser racing cars that looked like their street counterparts and Daytona 500 winners Bobby Allison and Cale Yarboroughventuring north to Indy. But schedules, championship systems and economics have all made such exploits more difficult.

Busch will be the fourth driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, following John Andretti (1994), Robby Gordon (five times from 1997 to 2004) and Tony Stewart (1999 and 2001), the co-owner of Busch's NASCAR team. Stewart was the most successful, finishing sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte in 2001.

Busch, who already has one NASCAR victory this season, joined Andretti Autosportvfor Indy and has cars and teams capable of contending in both races.

"Tony Stewart set the benchmark in this race in the procedure of the double, (finishing on the) lead lap on both races," Busch said. "Top half of the field is what I'm shooting for.

"To me it's about executing and being a professional about this whole thing."

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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