For more than a decade, the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s World 600 — now known as the Coca-Cola 600 — in Charlotte were held on different days, setting the stage for Cale Yarborough to make history in 1967 as the first driver to complete both races in one year.
But since both IndyCar and NASCAR have raced on the same day, the feat of running in both events has been pulled off eight times by three different drivers. Kurt Busch will attempt to add to that list Sunday, as the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion makes his first start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s not like I’m putting my career or my credentials on the line to prove anything,” Busch said. “This is a moment to check off something on the bucket list, but also to challenge myself to see where I can end up in this open-wheel rank at one of the most difficult races in the world.”
Where will Busch’s attempt rank? Here’s a look at the highs and lows of those who have managed to pull off the Double Duty.
JOHN ANDRETTI — 1994
He jumped on a golf cart at his pit in Indianapolis — where he finished 10th after running as high as third — and drove to a helicopter that was waiting to get him to the airport for the trip to Charlotte. Andretti arrived late and missed the driver’s meeting, which, per NASCAR rules, forced him to start at the back of the pack. He came in 36th in the nightcap.
ROBBY GORDON, 1997
Driving for Felix Sabates in both entries, Gordon qualified 12th at Indy and 28th in Charlotte. The weather hampered Gordon’s first attempt as rain forced the race to be moved from Sunday to Monday. He left for the NASCAR race and crashed after 186 laps, coming in 41st. While Gordon returned to Indy on Monday, the race was halted after 15 laps due to more rain and then was completed on Tuesday. But Gordon’s day was cut short as his car caught fire on the 19th lap, putting him in 29th.
TONY STEWART, 1999
A NASCAR rookie after spending five years in IndyCar, Stewart was actually pulling double duty throughout his attempt. On Indy Pole day, he qualified 24th, then went on that night to win a Winston Open qualifier before coming in second in the All-Star Race. Come Indy, Stewart finished ninth, then followed that up with a fourth-place effort in Charlotte. It was, at the time, the best combined effort of a driver pulling Double Duty, though Stewart improved upon it two years later.
ROBBY GORDON, 2000
Like his first attempt, Gordon’s second bid for the Memorial Day Weekend marathon was spoiled by rain. He had qualified fourth at Indy and was to start 42nd in Charlotte based on owners points with Team Menard. The weather forced a three-hour delay at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and he finished sixth there. He couldn’t get to Charlotte on time for the start of the race, so P.J. Jones opened the race in Gordon’s car. When he finally arrived, he took over for Jones during a pit stop. Gordon wound up 35th.
TONY STEWART, 2001
The criticism was that Stewart had grown too overweight to pull off the 1,100-mile double, but he delivered the most successful attempt as he finished sixth in Indy and third in Charlotte after qualifying seventh and 12th, respectively. Working with a tight window because the Coca-Cola 600 start time had been moved up, Stewart’s bid hit a snag as rain fell in Indiana. He nearly relinquished the car to backup driver Richie Hearn, but Stewart completed the race before flying to Charlotte. After missing the driver’s meeting, he was put in the back, but he steadily climbed up to become the first driver to complete every mile in both events.
ROBBY GORDON, 2002
Unlike his first two tries, weather did not play a part, but Gordon still did not complete both races. He worked his way up from 11th in Indianapolis to the top five, but he was hampered by a pit fire and came in eighth. In North Carolina he also ran in the top five, though he fell two laps down due to a leg cramp and ill-handling car. Gordon made up one of those laps, but he finished 16th with 1,098.5 of the day’s 1,100 miles.
ROBBY GORDON, 2003
Andretti tried to put together a follow-up to his history-making ’94 run, but Gordon was the one who would secure a ride in both races (with his Indianapolis 500 seat coming via Andretti’s cousin Michael). Gordon qualified third at Indy and spent a few laps in the top 10, but he dropped out after 169 laps and came in 22nd. It was the first time a driver attempting the double ended his day early at Indy. Gordon’s second half of the day wasn’t much better as he came in 17th, one lap down.
ROBBY GORDON, 2004
Twenty-seven laps into the Indy 500, rain brought about a red flag and, believing the event would be delayed, Gordon made the trip to Charlotte. But after nearly two hours, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track was dried, so Jaques Lazier took over for Gordon and they were credited with a 29th-place fnish. Meanwhile, in Charlotte, Gordon was 20th, finishing three laps down.
KURT BUSCH, 2014
The first driver in 10 years to try the Double Duty, and the first to do so in the social media age Busch has launched a Web site www.kurtbuschdouble.com to chronicle his attempt. Running in an Andretti Autosport car at Indy, Busch has already hit one snag as he’ll have to use a backup following a wreck at practice. He’ll be starting 12th, the outside of Row 4. As for the second part of his day, Busch has won at Charlotte before, taking NASCAR’s longest event in 2010, and has seven top-10 finishes there in all.Indy 500, IndyCar, Kurt Busch, NASCAR