Who was the first driver to top 200 mph in an Indy car? Some would say Tom Sneva at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1977.
Others would say “unofficially” Gordon Johncock or Mario Andretti at Indianapolis in 1973.
The first was actually the late Gerald Wayne “Jerry” Grant on Sept. 3, 1972 at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway. Grant hit 201.4 mph in his 1,100-horsepower Mystery Eagle for Dan Gurney.
Kurt Busch, winner of the 2017 Daytona 500, did a great impression of Jerry Grant, who coincidentally finished fifth in the 1967 Daytona 500, last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth when he earned the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole with a blistering lap of 200.915 mph.
It was the NASCAR track record at Texas and the fastest NASCAR lap ever at a 1.5-mile oval. It was Busch’s 22nd career pole and his first since 2016 at Las Vegas.
After finishing ninth in Sunday’s race at Texas, Busch and his NASCAR brethren head to Phoenix Raceway, where Grant finished eighth at Phoenix in an Indy car in 1972.
Busch has one win, seven top-five finishes and 17 top-10s at Phoenix. Additionally, the 39-year-old driver has led 751 laps, has an average starting position of 12.1, an average finish of 13.5, and has completed 99.6 percent – 9,012 of 9,051 – of the laps he’s contested there.
With only Phoenix and Homestead left on the schedule, Busch is hoping he can finish strong and finish in the top-10 in points.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about your record-setting lap last weekend at Texas.
“(Turns) three and four is an incredible sensation. Once the car goes into the banking, it travels. The suspension collapses in the car and the car gets lower to the ground and picks up speed because you are lower to the ground and have less drag. It is a sensation that is hard to describe. When you have that grip level in the car, it gives you the feeling that you can just put it down to the floor and there won’t be any consequences. Turns one and two are where I think the lap times come from, if you can get it to hook and stay right on the bottom because that end of the track is a lot flatter. You have to back out of the gas all the way. Then, in three and four, you can hold it wide open. Both ends of the track are very different. It is a cool sensation going through three and four almost holding it wide open.”
What do you feel you need to work on at Phoenix to continue the success you’ve had there?
“It seems like, each time we go back to Phoenix, the asphalt is getting a little bit older. It’s starting to get a little bit slicker, yet it still seems like you can stay out forever on tires. You are out there a long time on tires and the air pressures build up. We are going to work this time around on keeping the air pressure down and trying to make our long-run speed better.”
What makes Phoenix such a unique racetrack?
“It’s got a great atmosphere there with turns one and two being much tighter than turns three and four. They reconfigured the dogleg on the back straightaway, which is a huge corner now. It opens up the ability to go way below the yellow line. Sometimes you see cars five-wide on the back straightaway. That is definitely a wild card in the mix there.”