INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 26, 2001 - Tony Stewart has done what has become known as "Double Duty" two of the last three years, racing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, N.C., on the same day. It may not...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 26, 2001 - Tony Stewart has done what has become known as "Double Duty" two of the last three years, racing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, N.C., on the same day.
It may not be remembered as much, but the first to do it was John Andretti. The year was 1994, and he also became the first driver to compete in two races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the same year when he started that year's inaugural Brickyard 400. Robby Gordon first matched that feat in 1997, followed by Stewart in 1999 and 2001.
Andretti now has competed in seven Indianapolis 500s and seven Brickyard 400s at the Speedway. He has best finishes of fifth in the 1991 edition of the "500" and seventh in the 1998 Brickyard.
There is also another short "Double Duty" list. With the seven Brickyard 400s held to date, only six drivers have competed in both an Indianapolis 500 and a Brickyard 400. In addition to Andretti, Gordon and Stewart, "500" winners A.J. Foyt and Danny Sullivan plus Geoff Brabham all competed in the inaugural Brickyard event. Jason Leffler and Andy Hillenburg, both of which made the 2000 Indianapolis 500 field, could be the seventh and eighth when the 2001 Brickyard 400 takes place Aug. 5.
But the pioneer was Andretti, who rode a golf cart from his pit to a waiting helicopter to start the fast voyage to Charlotte in 1994.
"It was a pretty exciting time," Andretti recalled July 16 while at the Speedway for NASCAR Winston Cup testing. "I think a lot of people, especially the media, didn't give it much value. They looked at it and said, 'We've got a guy who's going to do both, and he's got circumstances and things, and it's going to be very difficult for him.'
"Especially back then, you had to do Sears Point (during May), and you didn't get to practice on Saturday (at Indy). You had to come back and qualify with a little different situation, more stretched out. Finally, when I qualified for the '600,' I'd already qualified for the '500.' My phone went off the hook. It was like everyone woke up and said, 'Wait a minute. It's going to happen.'
"To me, I'll say it to the end, and I think Tony's even said it before, you don't do it for any other reason than you want to be in the '500,' and it's the only way it can happen. He's like me. He wishes one of them would move to a different day so logistics would be a whole lot easier and makes a lot more sense. That's the only reason you do it."
Andretti's current car owner, Richard Petty, used to make an annual visit to the Speedway for Pole Day weekend. Petty was once asked to sit in the cockpit of an Indy-type car during a visit for a photo. He declined.
"I'd be afraid they'd fire it up," he said with his famous grin. Andretti thinks there's a chance that someone originating from stock-car land might try to compete in an Indy Racing League car some day.
"I've been trying to talk Kyle (Petty) into it," Andretti said. "I've been trying to talk Jeff Burton into it. They said they'll come watch, but they don't want to ... Kyle may be more likely. Jeff's been a pretty hard sell on the whole deal. I think both of them will do extremely well.
"Maybe if I keep pushing and you guys maybe push them a little bit, maybe they'll show up." But for now and forever, Andretti will have that unique place in history. On the other list, Leffler and Hillenburg, both with Midwestern sprint-car backgrounds, have a shot this year to join the ranks of those who have competed in both an Indianapolis 500 and a Brickyard 400.
"Coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is always special," Leffler said at the test. "I love Indianapolis. It's my favorite city. I didn't know I (would be) only the (seventh) driver to do that. I would like to be the first driver to win them both. That won't happen for a while.
"There's a lot of history here, and the Brickyard 400 is one of our biggest races. There'd be nothing greater in my life than winning that."
Said Hillenburg on July 17: "We're still not 100 percent sure we're going to be here the week of the Brickyard, but the only way to find out how good our stuff was was to come up and run. They haven't quite made that decision."