Race Weekend Central

Kurt Busch And The Double: Really?!

Kurt Busch announced on Tuesday that he’ll be racing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 later that day in Charlotte. That’s 1,100 miles of racing in two different kinds of vehicles. To make sure that almost anyone who pays attention to sports knew about his attempt, he made all the media rounds, appearing on ESPN,FOX, and NBC Sports. Heck, he might have showed up on the Oprah network for all anyone knows.

So the hype machine is in full effect, and for the moment, that’s a good thing. Articles on a number of sites have already begun contemplating how well Busch will do. Fair enough; that seems like a good way to analyze things. To be realistic, no one should really anticipate Busch winning at Indy. While the driver may be immensely talented, he just hasn’t logged that many laps in an Indy car.

Kurt Busch is the latest driver to attempt The Double, coming from the world of NASCAR to try to take home the Borg Warner.
Kurt Busch is the latest driver to attempt The Double, coming from the world of NASCAR to try to take home the Borg Warner.

Or consider this stat: Of the three drivers who have attempted The Double, those being Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, and John Andretti, only Stewart completed every lap. In 2001, Stewart finished sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte. If Busch comes anywhere close to those results, everyone should be stunned.

Statistical probabilities aside, the best thing that Busch is doing is bringing more interest to both events. Say what?! It’s the Indy 500! Yes, yes it is, but the race has had problems attracting viewership for a while now. Consider that just under six million people watched the 2013 version, which was won by the affable Tony Kanaan in a story that seemed almost scripted.

Is Busch going to make a difference in the race jumping to the eight million, ten million, or The Walking Dead 12 million mark? Probably not. There’s a chance his presence might not add any new viewers. But his story makes for an interesting one, and there are sure to be cameras, interviews, writers, and PR people all making sure that his attempt gets documented and disseminated.

Busch himself has already leapt into the process by setting upwww.KurtBuschDouble.com. At the site fans, or curious internet gazers, can look in at how he trains and prepares himself for the task of driving those 1,100 miles.

Busch’s endeavor to race in both events comes at a great time for both INDYCAR andNASCAR. First, he’s doing something that the two leagues have failed to do for some time now, and that is to build a bridge. INDYCAR has certainly struggled through leadership issues in the past few years, and the merger between itself and CARTcame way too late, but they’re trying – and they’re putting on some good races. NASCAR’s refusal to work with them is a show of power akin to Big Brother beating up on Little Brother just because.

Sure the two are competitors, with each trying to attract as many racing fans as they can, sometimes in nearly direct opposition to each other. But Busch is showing how the two should work together. While the move is a great one for him, as it continues his public-image-reconstruction project, it actually helps the two racing leagues more.

With viewership numbers stagnant for both leagues, though NASCAR sees them optimistically as holding steady, any kind of splash is something that may bring attention. It’s almost a paradox that the person that will be inviting more media scrutiny is the very one who had such an issue with it. Heck, maybe that will just add to the intrigue as viewers might be looking/hoping/waiting for Busch to lose his mind again.

Regardless, his try at The Double does have the potential to snare a casual fan here and there. Diehards, regardless of their feelings towards Busch, will already find it interesting.

Busch’s opportunity also shows collaboration between all sorts of other people. As he currently drives for Chevrolet at Stewart-Haas Racing, there had to be some kind of agreement to allow him to drive the No. 26 Andretti Honda at the 500. Though Honda is not in NASCAR, they’re still a formidable competitor at the dealership. Second, the race teams themselves had to find some kind of common ground in this tangled web.

What if Busch wrecks bad in the 500 and is unable to compete in the 600? While no one wants to wish that on him, that had to be part of the discussions among all parties involved. Add in the fact that Andretti himself must put together a team for the race, with cars and crew, and it’s another big part of the deal. No doubt Andretti will have the sponsorship to pay for everything, but it’s still another task at hand.

Is it really Busch who was able to bring about this kind of harmony? It’s wild to think that. Then again, he has also been the driver, with much help from his girlfriend, who was able to put together the deal that let him drive Ricky Bobby Talladega Nights cars for two races. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of that, done as seamlessly as the revitalization of Busch’s career.

BOWLES: What Busch’s Move Means For NASCAR

So, this decision is a good thing. Busch will be an interesting storyline to follow and there’s some reason to hope that it might benefit not just him, but almost everyone involved. It’s just too bad that Monaco isn’t closer… maybe he could have tried for The Triple.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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