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IndyCar Indianapolis 500

Kyle Larson to attempt ‘The Double’ - what is the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 doubleheader?

The Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 will take place at the weekend, with one driver set to take on both races.

Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren/Rick Hendrick Chevrolet
Kyle Larson will attempt ‘The Double’ this weekend, after qualifying for both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. The Hendricks Motorsport NASCAR driver will climb into an Arrow McLaren to race for the first time in the IndyCar championship.  
The Californian driver qualified fifth for the Indy 500 in his debut before flying to the practice session for the Coca-Cola 600, where he finished fourth. He is the first driver in a decade to attempt the feat, following in the footsteps of just a handful of drivers since Cale Yarborough in 1967, when the challenge ran over multiple days and was known as ‘The Cross-over’. 
Larson - who is the 2021 NASCAR Cup champion - said it was his “dream” to compete in the Indy 500, saying about his Indycar debut: “I’m just excited and a little bit nervous”. Ahead of qualifying weekend, Larson said he was open to the idea of competing in future Indianapolis 500 events, saying: “If I enjoy it, and if it doesn't scare the sh*t out of me, then maybe I would like to do it again”.  

What is ‘The Double’? 

The Double is arguably one of the most difficult challenges in motorsport, and sees a driver taking part in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600, which happen over the same weekend. The challenge has a host of different names, including ‘Double Duty’, ‘Indy-Charlotte Double’ and ‘Memorial Day Double’ - the latter of which stems from the races usually taking place over Memorial Day weekend in the United States. 
Both events usually run on the same day, with the Indy 500 running in the afternoon and the Coca-Cola 600 taking place in the evening. To be successful at ‘The Double’ a driver must finish the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then fly roughly 430 miles to the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway later in the day. 
If there are no delays to the Indy 500, then there is a small window for a driver to get between the circuits to then take part in the Coca-Cola 600. During the flight, the driver will be checked by a doctor and given IV fluids to ensure they are in a fit state to take on the next race. 
The Double is physically demanding on any driver who undertakes the challenge, with a combined total of 600 laps across the two races. The 500 miles of the IndyCar race and the 600 of the NASCAR Cup race, added to the travel of getting between the two tracks, will result in a driver taking part in ‘The Double’ travelling over 1,100 miles in one day.
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren/Rick Hendrick Chevrolet

Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren/Rick Hendrick Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

The Double wasn’t possible until 1993 when the Coca-Cola 600 was moved to no longer overlap with the Indy 500. Despite adjusting the time, it was still impossible for a driver to compete in both races until the time for the Coca-Cola 600 was moved back further the following year to allow for attempts of The Double. 

What is Kyle Larson’s Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 schedule? 

Larson has faced an incredibly busy month, with practice sessions and qualifying being held for both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. He previously missed last weekend’s NASCAR All-Star race at the North Wilkesboro Speedway to take part in the qualifying sessions for the IndyCar race.  
Larson has said that he fully intends to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 and will leave the Indy 500 early if needed. Lightning and heavy rain have been forecast at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which could see Arrow McLaren substitute Larson with Tony Kanaan to ensure the NASCAR driver does not miss the Coca-Cola 600. 
It is not yet known whether the Hendricks Motorsport driver will participate in both races this weekend until he takes part in Saturday’s Coca-Cola 600 qualifying.  
If he can participate in both races, Larson’s weekend schedule will be as follows:  
  • Friday, 24 May: Indy 500 Carb Day Practice 
  • Saturday, 25 May: Coca-Cola 600 Qualifying  
  • Sunday, 26 May: Indy 500 (12.45 pm ET start time), flight to Charlotte Motor Speedway & Coca-Cola 600 (6 pm ET start time) 

Drivers who have attempted ‘The Double’  

Only four drivers have successfully attempted ‘The Double’ and competed in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. 

Kurt Busch – 2014 

  • Indy 500 result - 6th 
  • Coca-Cola 600 result - 40th 
Former NASCAR driver Kurt Busch was the last driver to attempt ‘The Double’, taking on the feat in 2014. Busch had previously won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2010 for Penske Racing, after leading 252 laps in a race that saw 34 leader changes.  
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

The Las Vegas-born driver qualified 12th for the Indy 500, placing him on the fourth row of the starting grid. Busch took part in the race for the Andretti team, who were able to take the win with Ryan Hunter-Reay.  
Despite dropping down to 20th in the 200-lap race - which saw a controversial red flag on lap 191 after Townsend Bell crashed into the outside wall - Busch managed to finish sixth before flying to Charlotte to compete in the Coca-Cola 600. 
He hoped to become the second driver to complete the 1,100-mile feat but sadly his plans were scuppered 194 miles before the end of the NASCAR race when his engine blew on lap 271. He started the Coca-Cola 600 from the back of the grid - despite qualifying seventh - after crashing his primary car during the final practice session. He was able to make his way up to 15th before having to retire from the race with 121 laps to go. 
Following both races, Busch told Auto Racing: “I can't let what happened here dampen the mood on what happened up in Indianapolis," before saying: “The feel of the stock car right after driving the IndyCar is a feeling I'll never forget."  

Robby Gordon - 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003 & 2004 

  • Best Indy 500 result during ‘The Double’ - 6th (2000) 
  • Best Coca-Cola 600 result during ‘The Double’ - 16th (2002) 
Robby Gordon is the only driver to have attempted ‘The Double’ five times. 
His first Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 attempt came in 1997 when he competed in both with the SABCO racing team.  
Rain delayed the start of the Indy 500, moving the race from Sunday to Monday and eventually into Tuesday due to the heavy rain. Gordon flew to Charlotte on Sunday to compete in the Coca-Cola 600, which was also delayed due to the rain and he eventually crashed out on lap 186 of a reduced 333 lap race. He started the Indy 500 on the Monday in 12th place and after making up many places, was forced to retire after just 19 laps due to a water leak.  
Robby Gordon

Robby Gordon

Gordon’s second attempt came in 2000 when he fell just 11 laps short of completing the challenge after a rain delay at the Indy 500 saw him arrive late to the Coca-Cola 600. Racing for Team Menard in both races, he successfully finished in Indianapolis in sixth place, before crossing the line in Charlotte in 35th. P.J. Jones started the Coca-Cola 600 for Gordon until he made it to the track and was officially credited in the final standings. 
His third successful attempt came in 2002 when he started the Indy 500 in 11th. On lap 81, the Team Menard/RCR car he was racing suffered a large fire and explosion in the pit lane. Remarkably Gordon was uninjured, and the car was able to still complete the 200 laps, where he finished in 8th place. He then flew to the Coca-Cola 600 where he worked up from 12th place into the top five before he suffered leg cramps and dropped back to 16th, finishing one lap short of completing the full 600 laps.  
Gordon replaced Dario Franchitti for Andretti-Green racing in 2003 and announced another attempt at ‘The Double’. He started the race in third and on the front row of the grid, but on lap 172 stopped on track after a gearbox failure. Gordon immediately flew to the Coca-Cola 600, where he finished in 17th on lap 275 of a shortened 276-lap race due to the rain.  
After being unsuccessful in his other four attempts, Gordon gave ‘The Double’ one final attempt in 2004. Rain delayed the start of the Indy 500 by two hours and he was only able to complete 28 laps before the race was red-flagged due to a further rainstorm. He chose to leave the track after stewards were unsure if further racing would go ahead later in the day or potentially be delayed until Monday. Gordon was able to retain his 20th place in qualifying during the race, finishing on lap 397 after being lapped by race winner Jimmie Johnson.  

Tony Stewart - 1999 & 2001

  • Best Indy 500 result during ‘The Double’ - 6th (2001) 
  • Best Coca-Cola 600 result during ‘The Double’ - 3rd (2001) 
Tony Stewart is the only driver to successfully finish all 1,100 miles of ‘The Double’, completing the attempt in 2001. The NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar Series champion made two attempts at the two-race feat, falling just four laps short on his first attempt in 1999.  
Stewart had just moved from IndyCar to NASCAR full-time for the 1999 season but was supported by his new team - Joe Gibbs Racing - in his attempt to be the first driver to complete the full 1,100-mile challenge. Starting the Indy 500 in 24th, Stewart was able to finish four laps down in ninth before flying to the Coca-Cola 600, where he started 20th and was unfortunate to just miss out on a podium finish when he crossed the line in fourth place.  
His successful attempt came in 2001 when Stewart completed the full 200 laps of the Indy 500 and the 400 laps of the Coca-Cola 600 and even collected a podium finish. He qualified 7th in Indianapolis and despite a strict schedule, which required him to be out of the car by 4pm, he was still able to finish in 6th place.  
The Tony Stewart 1100: double duty Indy and Charlotte

The Tony Stewart 1100: double duty Indy and Charlotte

Photo by: tonystewart.com

Stewart’s attempt almost looked like it was ending early after he visited first aid for a leg cramp during a red flag at the IndyCar race. Chip Ganassi’s relief driver Richie Hearn was ready to finish the race for the team, but the Indiana-born driver was able to get back into the car and finish the full 200 laps.  
Stewart then started the Coca-Cola 600 at the very back of the grid after being penalised for missing the drivers’ briefing. He spun just two laps into the race but was able to climb up through the grid and take a third-place finish.  
Stewart is the only driver to have ever completed both races successfully.  

John Andretti - 1994  

  • Indy 500 result - 10th 
  • Coca-Cola 600 result - 36th 
John Andretti was the first driver to attempt ‘The Double’ in 1994 when both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 were scheduled to run with a gap in between the races. Andretti had previously spent several years competing in IndyCar before moving to NASCAR full-time in 1994.  
He started at Indianapolis in 10th, just behind his uncle Mario Andretti who was competing in his final Indy 500. Andretti was able to reach a top-three position during the race but dropped back into tenth when he crossed the finish line.  
He then flew to the Charlotte Motor Speedway where he had qualified ninth in the Coca-Cola 600 but had to start at the back of the grid after missing the drivers' meeting. The race did not go well for Andretti with a spin on lap 90, before breaking his crankshaft and having to retire the car later in the race at lap 220.  

Other drivers to have attempted ‘The Double’  

Three further drivers had attempted ‘The Double’ when it was previously known as ‘The Cross-Over’. Before 1983 the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 would take place on separate days giving drivers a better opportunity to attempt both races. 
Cale Yarborough was the first driver to attempt ‘The Cross-Over’ in 1967 when he took on both races within the same year. The Coca-Cola 600 was previously named The World 600 and took place two days before the Indy 500, with Yarborough qualifying for both events.  
The attempt appeared eventful for the South Carolina-born driver, with his car being retired at the 600 with broken steering, before spinning once and crashing later in the Indy 500 race.  
Jerry Grant then attempted the feat the following year where he finished 16th in The World 600, before taking on the Indy 500 four days later, where his car was then retired after 50 laps due to an oil leak.  
Donnie Allison was the final driver to attempt ‘The Cross-Over’ in both 1970 and 1971. The Floridian’s first attempt saw a six-day break between the races. Allison took home the Charlotte victory, before finishing fourth at the Indy 500. 
He took on the challenge again the following year, with races one day after the other. Allison finished 6th in Indianapolis on the Sunday, before taking second place in Charlotte on the Monday.

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