If Kurt Busch were serious about running next year’s Indy 500 he’d be at Pocono this weekend.
Pocono is one of two ovals left on the IZOD Indycar schedule. Both sit on Sprint Cup weekends, but don’t directly conflict with Sprint Cup races. This weekend NASCAR qualifies on Friday, races at Daytona on Saturday: Indycar qualifies on Saturday and races Sunday at Pocono.
There’s no on-track activities for Sprint Cup on Saturday until the Coke Zero 400 at 7 p.m. All of the Coke Zero 400 practice and qualifying takes place on Friday. Busch could leave Daytona Friday night, practice an Indycar Saturday morning, qualify and get on a private plane back to Florida by 3 p.m. Then, after the Sprint Cup race, he gets back on a plane and is ready to start the Indy Pocono 400 at noon. Both series practice on Thursday, but Busch could practice in the morning at Pocono and be at Daytona in time for the 4 p.m. Cup practice.
It’s doable. NASCAR drivers have raced in Nationwide and Sprint Cup races in different states on the same weekend before. If Busch has real interest in doing the Indy 500 next year he could have tested at Pocono on June 26 and 27 when fourteen Indycar teams took to the circuit. Yes, he might miss the final Indycar practice, but he could have had enough time in the car at Pocono to be competitive.
The only other oval on Indy’s schedule is the MAVtv 500 at the end of the season. It’s the night before Talladega, and since NASCAR is Busch’s day job it’s unlikely that he’s going to race in a night race before one of his biggest races of the season.
Sure, Busch has proven his skills on road courses and could potentially run Barber, St. Pete, or Long Beach next year, but Pocono is the best practice any driver could get for the Indy 500. If Busch were serious about running Indy, and doing so with any chance to win, he’d be at Pocono this weekend. Pocono’s flat turns and long straightaways are the closest thing to running Indy without actually being there.
The Indy Pocono 400 entry list is out, Kurt Busch’s name isn’t on it. I bet the same thing will be true for next year’s Indy 500.