Kurt Busch might not have completed the 1,100-mile Memorial Day double after a blown engine 129 laps from the finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Concord, North Carolina, but the NASCAR driver impressed Sunday at the Indianapolis 500 and was awarded the Rookie of the Year award for the IndyCar race.
After Busch finished sixth in the Indy 500, Bruce Martin of Fox Sports reported the news of the hardware:
Kurt Busch's impressive sixth-place finish in the 98th Indianapolis 500 earned the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion the prestigious Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award at Monday night's Victory Awards Celebration at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Busch is the first NASCAR driver to win the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award since Donnie Allison finished fourth and earned the award in the 1970 Indianapolis 500.
The last part of that is what makes the feat a historic one. Busch was not able to nail down the full double, but the remarkable result came in his first ever start in IndyCar. After making a career in stock car racing, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion proved he's one of the most versatile in the sport.
That result drew the respect of analysts from NASCAR, including Marty Smith of ESPN:
Busch completed about 907 miles of the 1,100-mile quest to complete both races in Indiana and North Carolina. Just three drivers have ever attempted the double, and Tony Stewart is the only one to ever complete it.
Busch arrived at the Concord track via helicopter about an hour before race time.
Busch spoke about keeping his spirits high after the failed attempt at a double, per Chris Jenkins and Mike Hembree of USA Today:
It was a challenge I put forth for myself. I enjoyed it. I soaked it in. We're not going to let this dampen things. There's still wind in our sails. We'll still sail on off into the sunset. ...
... We were hanging on (after the shock issue). We were going to muscle it out. Then it was like the car swallowed three cylinders at once. The engine let go. Those things happen in motorsports. It was a good battle, though. I was hoping to do 1,100 miles today. I can't let what happened here dampen the mood on what happened up in Indy.
Along with the award, Busch also received $423,889, including a $25,000 bonus from Sunoco for his efforts. So that probably improves the mood as well after coming up short in Charlotte.
Busch isn't currently scheduled to compete in another IndyCar race this season, but showed he might be in line for another attempt at the double next season. While he hasn't announced his intentions for next year, his car owner, Tony Stewart, completed the only full attempt at it on his second try in 2001.
As for the remainder of his season in NASCAR, Busch is currently sitting at 28th in the points standings. Thanks to a win earlier in the season at Martinsville, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is essentially into the Chase for the Sprint Cup by virtue of the new points system.
After winning the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award, the confidence that comes along with that might lead to a strong finish in the NASCAR season for the 35-year-old driver. For now, the motorsports world is still buzzing about his impressive finish in Indy with the season now heading to Dover.
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