Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation “America’s Machine Tool” Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was in position to do what only his team co-owner Tony Stewart had accomplished before: complete all 1,100 miles of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be for the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.
Busch became just the fourth driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, joining Stewart, John Andretti and Robby Gordon.
Busch’s sixth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day had him on track for the historic feat. The open-wheel result was the best by any rookie in Sunday’s race and tied him with teammate Stewart for the best finish by a driver attempting The Double. Stewart finished sixth in the 2001 Indianapolis 500.
Per the NASCAR rulebook, Busch was forced to start the Coca-Cola 600, the second race of his Double attempt, from the rear of the field due to the fact he could not make the trip back from Indianapolis to Charlotte in time for the Sprint Cup Series driver meeting.
Busch arrived by helicopter on the Charlotte Motor Speedway frontstretch approximately 20 minutes before the start of driver introductions.
The No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet methodically worked its way forward in the beginning laps of NASCAR’s longest event.
By the halfway point of the race, Busch and the No. 41 team remained on the lead lap in 13th position. During the pit cycle on lap 216, Busch raced as high as fifth before coming to pit road for adjustments. When Busch came to pit road for routine service on lap 217, the No. 41 was hit by the No. 17 car as it exited its pit stall. The incident caused damage to the left rear of the Haas Automation machine.
Shortly after the pit-road incident, on lap 225 Busch told the team that he dropped a cylinder. One lap later he told the crew over the radio that he lost a second cylinder. Busch did his best to nurse the engine for the remainder of the race, but the No. 41 suffered a complete engine malfunction on lap 271, ending his night in 40th position, 129 laps short of the full-race distance.
“The motor blew,” Busch said. “It acted like it swallowed three cylinders all at once, and so it was really slow. It's kind of a shame, you know. It almost symbolizes how tough it has been this year on the Haas Automation team. We gave it our all, and the way we were clawing it up there and got a lucky break with the caution one time. I thought we were making good gains on the car, and it was great to race in traffic. To feel the stock car right after driving the Indy car was a day I'll never forget. I can't let the mood here with the car dampen what happened up at Indy today. That was very special. It takes a big team – it takes a team everywhere. Andretti Autosport gave me a top-five car to try and win the 500 with, and these Stewart-Haas guys gave me a good car tonight. The motor just went, sometimes that happens. All in all I gave it my all. I tried hard. I had a lot of people helping me out. I want to say thanks to Gene Haas, Tony Stewart, Michael Andretti and this whole group. Everyone worked hard on this on both sides.”