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Kurt Busch gets comfortable in traffic on first day of Indy 500 official practice

May 11, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

KuBuSunIMS AP

The runs Kurt Busch had made up to Sunday in the No. 26 Suretone Honda for Andretti Autosport were solely single-car runs, where he had a chance to acclimate simply to the nature and handling of the lighter, less powerful IndyCar compared to the heavier, more brutal and higher horsepower NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.

Sunday marked Busch’s first chance to run in traffic, in dirty air, in a moment he appreciated. He banked 31 laps on the day, with his fastest on lap 29 of 220.352 mph good for P12 on the time sheets.

“It was a nice rookie day to go play in traffic,” said the 2004 Sprint Cup champion. “The Andretti Autosport guys ramped up where we are with the levels, to get in dirty air. Today was a nice shakedown, and the second run was a baseline run.  It was nice to have a champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, take me around, and then with Munoz and E.J. Viso. It’s just neat to move to the next step, which is to go out there in dirty air and draft with teammates.”

Busch described the difference of running in traffic in NASCAR versus traffic in IndyCar as “times 10,” in IndyCar, so he could easily catch the car in front of them. With less horsepower, it’s a lot to digest.

“At 220 things are moving quick, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Today I can draw a checkmark through the day as a successful rookie day in playing with dirty air. The next day we have to advance that, and the next day we have to advance it again. Thursday we’re going to look at taking downforce off the car to get into qualifying mode. We’ll see how it all pans out.”

Additionally, although there was talk of Busch doing his first IndyCar race last fall in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway, he was pleased he opted not to do so, citing a lack of proper preparation.

“I’m glad I skipped out on Fontana last fall,” he admitted. “That would have been like drinking through a funnel, more of a keg stand I think. Because of all the practice days, it’s going to help me get comfortable and digest the information. I think with just a one-day practice at Fontana last fall, it wouldn’t have been a good idea.”

Busch and the rest of the five-car Andretti Autosport effort resume practice on Monday.

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