Busch explores his NASCAR, IndyCar options this racing season

Kurt Busch, in the 78 car, is expected to be among the entries for the Quicken Loans 400 on June 16 at Michigan International Speedway.
Kurt Busch, in the 78 car, is expected to be among the entries for the Quicken Loans 400 on June 16 at Michigan International Speedway.

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Last week, Kurt Busch passed the rookie orientation for the IZOD IndyCar Series and became certified as an open-wheel driver.

Last Friday, Busch won the pole at Darlington for the Bojangles Southern 500 and finished 14th in the Sprint Cup race a day later.

This week, Busch took advantage of a few extra test laps at Michigan International Speedway. Busch and Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, ran laps Tuesday on the 2-mile super speedway in preparation for next month’s Sprint Cup race, the Quicken Loans 400.

In addition to Bayne and Busch, Camping World Trucks Series driver Joey Coulter was on hand to unveil the track’s partnership with the National Guard.

“I’m glad we came to test,” Busch said. “If we had to unload and work on this car in a quick hour-and-a-half, we definitely would have been behind.”

Busch has been one of stock-car racing’s more maligned figures but has found short-term stability this year on the Sprint Cup circuit.

After Busch and Penske Racing parted ways in 2011 — described by some as a mutual parting, by others as a firing — Busch spent part of the 2012 season with Phoenix Racing, then joined Denver-based Furniture Row Racing in September.

He’s also massaging his affinity for exploring other areas of racing.

“The season’s been a nice, linear progression for the Sprint Cup Series, with some of the top-fives we’ve had, and we had even better runs that didn’t end up being top five,” Busch said. “Overall, with driving IndyCars, or an Australian V8 Supercar, I don’t have a long-term contract, but I’ve accomplished a lot in the Cup [Series].

“Even though NASCAR’s my home, I’m still dabbling, trying to see what’s out there, and when you open doors and walk through them, you never know how far it can lead.”

Busch sits 18th in the Sprint Cup Series points standings and told FoxSports.com last week that driving in an IndyCar event later this season isn’t out of the question. Driving in two series could be in his future.

“I just think this year it’s too soon,” Busch said. “When I prepare to do things, I try to go through as much of the process to be prepared and to be ready for when it does happen.”

Busch is expected to be among the entries for the Quicken Loans 400 on June 16 at MIS. Soaring temperatures at last year’s event, combined with a newly repaved track surface, left the tires of Sprint Cup cars scorched and blistered after qualifying and practice runs.

As a result, NASCAR officials mandated a switch to sturdier left-side Goodyear tires and more durable tires with a different construction and mold shape for the June and August Sprint Cup races at MIS.

Busch said the same tire combination will be used this season at MIS.

“The track has definitely changed, with the way the grip level feels,” Busch said. “The winters up here are a little harsher than most places, so we’re just trying to get a feel for the Goodyear tire and the balance of the new Generation-6 car that has a lot of little extra things that we didn’t have last year.”

Bayne, who is running a full Nationwide schedule with Roush Fenway Racing and a partial Sprint Cup schedule with Wood Brothers Racing, said his team will take data from Tuesday’s testing and apply it both to races and to the handling of similar tracks.

“We’re working on things that you can’t usually do during practice,” Bayne said. “We have data on the car so you can see what’s happening with travels and as far as grip level, that’s the kind of things we’ll work on.

“Hopefully we’ll have a better direction of where to start when we come back.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.