May 18, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Kurt Busch waits in the qualifying line during pole day for the 2014 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Come Sunday, the center of the racing universe revolves around Kurt Busch. Busch is set to join John Andretti, Robby Gordon, and his boss Tony Stewart as a member of the double club. When the green flag drops on the 98th Indianapolis 500 Sunday afternoon, Kurt Busch will start from the 12th position. Busch’s journey to the Indy 500 has captivated the entire motorsports community. Throughout this entire experience Busch has garnered an abundance of support from his peers both within, and outside the NASCAR community alike. Kurt’s incredible story has even spawned a website (kurtbuschdouble.com) that enables fans to pledge a small contribution to the brave men and women of the armed forces for every lap Kurt completes in both races. Busch’s current employer Tony Stewart has showered his driver with nothing but adoration since Busch announced his plans to run the Indy 500 earlier this year. Exactly what is to be expected of Busch in his first Indy 500 start? Honestly finishing the race itself would be a major accomplishment for a driver nobody really expected to dabble in the ranks of open wheel racing. Busch admittedly acknowledged to the media on more than one occasion that pulling off the double would require a tremendous amount of self-preservation. Once Busch completes his run at Indy he will then head off to Charlotte in search of his second career Coca Cola 600 victory. Busch denied car owner Chip Ganassi a place in Memorial Day weekend racing history back in 2010, by spoiling Jamie McMurray’s valiant attempt at a coke 600 victory. Had McMurray pulled out a victory in the 600, car owner Chip Ganassi would have become the first team owner in motorsports history to win both the Indy 500 & Coca Cola 600 in the same day. Indy car legend Dario Franchitti recorded his second of three Indy 500 victories on that day in 2010. Though Ganassi was denied a piece of motorsports history in 2010, he may have ample opportunity to rewrite history some four years later. More on that later.
Two of Jamie McMurray’s seven career NSCS victories have come at Charlotte Motor speedway. One of those victories occurred in only McMurray’s second career NSCS start back in 2002. Last weekend McMurray added another Charlotte milestone to his career resume by scoring an unexpected victory in the coveted all-star race. Now all that eludes McMurray is a win in the season’s longest race, the Coca Cola 600. Winning the 600 not only would help cross this race off McMurray’s bucket list, it would place him amongst some elite company the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarett, Kevin Harvick & Bobby Labonte as drivers to win the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 & the Coca Cola 600, considered to be three of NASCAR’s marquee events. A victory in the 600 was an honor McMurray was denied of back in 2010 when he finished second to Kurt Busch. Ironically that year Kurt Busch won the all-star race and the 600 in the same year. Do you see where I’m going with this? If history does indeed repeat itself McMurray should win Sunday night’s Coca Cola 600. However you and I both know never rest your faith in statistics. No matter how much we dissect the potential outcome of these races, time and time again we are reminded that NASCAR is as exciting as it is unpredictable. So to all those skeptics out there who brazenly compare the outcome of our races to WWE wrestling matches, please don’t. Jamie Mac’s victory in the all-star proves you can’t draw this stuff up from a script. Should McMurray pull out another improbable victory at Charlotte he would join another elite group of drivers the likes of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Davey Allison, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson & Kasey Kahne to win the all-star race and the 600 in the same season. Not to mention a win would all but guarantee McMurray a berth in the chase for the first time in his career.
Believe it or not. We often take for granted how good of a race car driver Kyle Busch really is. He’s expected to win more than he does based on the impressive amount of victories he’s rolled off in NASCAR’s lower tier series in virtually no time at all. Dominant at times over the years in Charlotte, Busch has never scored a Sprint cup victory in the Queen city. With all the attention focused on his older brother Kurt this weekend, the younger Busch could make headlines of his own by breaking his winless drought at NASCAR’s home track. Hmmm…
The Hendrick Motorsports trio of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon & Kasey Kahne are in line for their fourth Coca Cola 600 victories respectively when the green flag drops Sunday night. Hendrick Motorsports has only one victory in the last eight trips to Charlotte. Given how competitive most teams have been this season, the chances of anyone of these guys scoring a 4th victory in the 600 seem minimal at best. Kevin Harvick a driver whose team is powered by Hendrick engines underneath the hood represents the best chance of anything Hendrick in victory lane this Sunday. In case you forgot Harvick won last year’s Coca Cola 600 while driving for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick has also claimed victory in two of the last three Coca cola 600’s. Just some food for thought if you plan on picking the closer this weekend.
Through the years the Coca cola 600 has produced its share of upset winners as it has first time winners. NSCS champions Matt Kenseth(00), Bobby Labonte(95) & Jeff Gordon(94) all scored their first career wins in the longest race of the season. Both Casey Mears (07) & David Reutimann (09) scored major upsets by winning their first career NSCS race in the Coca cola 600. That brings us to this year’s 600 and a young buck by the name of Kyle Larson. Although it’s still too soon to tell just how far Larson will go in his NSCS career, I predict he joins the three former champions listed above and scores his first career in Charlotte. By doing so Larson could etch his team owner Chip Ganassi’s place in racing history should one of his drivers win the prestigious Indy 500. Its clear Ganassi’s future success in NASCAR Sprint cup series competition rests in the palm of Kyle Larson’s hands.
- Kyle Larson
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kasey Kahne
- Matt Kenseth
- Brian Vickers
- Jeff Gordon
- Kevin Harvick
- Aric Almirola
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Danica Patrick
Photo courtesy of Brian Spurlock – USA Today Sports