|Busch photo by Eric Anderson|
In 12th place after 32 drivers made their initial qualifying run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Busch was ready for a second 4-lap try. It was 2:03 p.m. and as he would have to depart soon in order to make the NASCAR All-Star race in Charlotte. So this would likely be his last shot at making the Fast Nine, which would allow him to return on Sunday and be part of the pole qualifying party.
Hardly anyone noticed in the press room as Busch took to the track. Qualifying was already three hours old and there were nearly four more hours to go. It was going to be a long day.
Then it happened.
“Hey look at that that, Busch is P1,” someone said. Busch had just run a lap of 230.388 mph, the fastest lap so far in qualifying. There was silence in the press room as all eyes focused on the television screens, some showing Busch on the track, and others the time and speed chart. For the first time you could hear a cheer from the crowd outside. Ok, it wasn’t exactly a crowd, but you could hear some fans making noise.
“Now we got a story,” someone said.
But alas, the moment lasted only about 40 seconds, the time it took to run a second lap. He slipped only slightly, back to P2 after four laps, but the moment had been lost.
“Would have been a good story,” someone said, turning away from the screens. The press room reverted to its practiced indifference.
Eventually Busch would be bumped out of the Fast Nine entirely. Perhaps he should have stayed in Indianapolis as he battled a poor handling car and a loose lug nut in Charlotte, finishing 11th.
"My thought process was to give respect to the NASCAR side and come back for the drivers’ meeting,” Busch said Saturday night in Charlotte. “I guess I should have stayed up there to make a third run and see if we had a shot at the Top Nine."
Back in Indianapolis on Sunday, there was no doubt about it.
“I don’t want to dwell on it, but I should have stayed,” Busch said after qualifying 14th for the Indy 500. “I should have stayed and tried to make it into the Top Nine."
Busch remains one of the top stories – probably the top story – for the upcoming 500. When asked on the ABC qualifying broadcast what they were looking forward to in the race, two 500 winners, Eddie Cheever and Dario Franchitti, both said Kurt Busch.
And when the Indy car drivers head out to various cities across the country on Tuesday to help promote the race, Busch is headed for the country’s biggest media market, New York City.
Pole sitter Ed Carpenter? He’s going to Milwaukee.