And Busch cleared another hurdle Tuesday by officially passing the final two phases of Indy’s rookie orientation program.
Busch and 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve were the only two drivers on the track, and it didn’t take either one very long to complete their rookie orientation, which is based on the number of laps run at a fast enough speed. Track officials gave them a pass on completing the first phase because of their vast racing experience.
“It was a good day just to settle in with the team,” Busch said. “It felt good to get the feedback from the car and to listen to the team.”
Driving conditions were less than ideal.
Heavy overnight rain delayed the start of testing by roughly two hours and pushed back the scheduled lunch break. When the rain returned in the afternoon, speedway officials closed the track 45 minutes early.
In between, the drivers had to contend with a mixture of bright sunshine, gusty winds, cloud cover and cooling temperatures.
“Once in a while you would have to back out and give it some grip again,” Villeneuve said, explaining how he tried to contend with the tricky winds in the third turn.
For the 43-year-old Villeneuve, it marked the first time he had driven an IndyCar at this track since winning the 500 in 1995 — the same year he went on to win the series championship.
It wasn’t exactly old hat. His fastest lap was 217.8 mph and it took some effort to go that fast.
“The first few laps were a little surprising because I thought I was going fast,” the Canadian driver said. “Then I looked down and saw 180. So I did another lap, and I looked down and saw 190.”
Busch had a similar experience last year when he climbed into an IndyCar for the first time. He wasn’t quite sure what all the buttons were for, and once he made it onto the track, he was thrown by the air buffeting his head. This time, he was prepared.