Doing the 'Double'

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With the start times in the perfect spot for drivers to be able to run both the Indy 500 and Coke 600, could we see it happen again soon?

With Kyle Larson’s recent declaration about trying to do the Memorial Day ‘Double’ and Kurt Busch being around 70% done with his plans for the ‘Double’, lets look back at the history of the feat known as the ‘Double’.

The Indy 500 was held on Sunday for the first time in 1974, and the Coca Cola 600 was held around the same time during the day. Doing the ‘Double’ at that point was physically impossible, but in 1992, lights were installed around Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the start time of the 600 was moved to the late afternoon, making the feat possible.

Race action
Race action

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

John Andretti became the first driver to attempt the ‘Double’. He finished 10th at Indy in 1994 but dropped out of the 600 with engine failure.

Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart were the only two other drivers to compete in both races on the same day. However, Stewart was the only driver to finish all 1100 miles, finishing 6th at Indy and 3rd at Charlotte in 2001. Gordon was one lap short the following year of finishing all 1100 miles and in subsequent years was not able to finish one of the two races in 2003 and 2004.

When the start time for the 500 was moved to noon EST, travel time was reduced for drivers wanting to compete in both races, making the feat near impossible.

Kyle Larson, Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Covy Moore

However, with the start time for the 500 back to where it was, the feat has become possible again for drivers to do, but there are noticeable challenges.

1. Logistics

The driver must be able to get from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the Indianapolis airport in an expedited fashion and fly to Charlotte by a set time, as air travel will be around an hour. After landing in Charlotte, the driver has to have quick travel to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart was able to use helicopters to achieve fast travel back in 2001 between the tracks and the airports, so that wasn’t a big issue for him.

2. Weather

If the 500 is delayed for weather, one event may be declared the priority event. In 2000, Robby Gordon stayed in Indy when the start was delayed and missed the start at Charlotte. In 2004, he left Indy during a rain delay after the race had started, so he left for Charlotte and another driver drove for him. Then again, Charlotte may have issues that may delay the start of the race to the next day, making the feat not a same day affair.

Kurt Busch prepares to test an Andretti Autosport IndyCar
Kurt Busch prepares to test an Andretti Autosport IndyCar

Photo by: IndyCar Series

3. Health

A driver must be in near-perfect physical condition for the races. Tony Stewart had numerous IVs administered to him in his 2001 odyssey but was able to finish the 600 with the fastest last lap of the race.

4. Sponsorship Conflicts

A driver might have sponsorship or manufacturer conflicts to deal with when trying to do the double. Chevy has told Kurt Busch to try seeking out Chevy IndyCar teams, which might hinder his opportunities at Indy (Kurt tested with Andretti Autosport last year, they switched to Honda this year). In 2004, Tony Stewart was considering driving an A. J. Foyt-entered car in the 500, but contracts prevented him from wheeling a Toyota-engined car at Indy when Chevrolet powered cars were already in the field.

Some cars would be an instant no for many drivers wanting to race. There would most likely be a ban on Toyota drivers in NASCAR driving IndyCars with Honda engines in the back of them.

But, despite all the challenges in place, two drivers might make an attempt this year at running both races. If the plans come together, it could be a wild ride.

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP , INDYCAR
Article type Analysis
Tags charlotte, charlotte 600, chevrolet, helicopter, honda, indianapolis 500, indy 500, kurt busch, kyle larson, robby gordon, tony stewart, toyota, world 600