Who's done 'The Double'? Racing Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on same day

Indycar Racing News

'The Double' is a challenge like no other in motor sport – we look at the brave racers who've taken on the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day

3 Kyle Larson 2024 Indianapolis 500

A new challenger is taking on 'The Double'


Completing ‘The Double’ isn’t just one of racing’s most formidable challenges, it’s up there with any of the sporting world’s greatest feats.

A motor sport ultra-marathon, it kicks off with a double century of tours round the hugely intimidating Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 240mph-tour de force which rewards the brave while taking few prisoners.

Once the 500-mile duel against IndyCar’s best is through, you then have to fling yourself onto a jet in Indiana – head-swimming, heart-pounding – and compose yourself as you fly to North Carolina, then catch a helicopter to another arena of battle: the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, NASCAR’s longest race.

No one has taken on the brutal brace for ten years, but that’s all about to change in 2024: NASCAR heavyweight Kyle Larson will take on The Double this year, driving for the McLaren team at the Indy 500 before heading for his usual berth at Hendrick in Charlotte, almost 600 miles away.

Always traditionally close together, now for decades the two races have been run on the same day. Only a handful of drivers have attempted to run both races in the same year, and even fewer have done so on the same day.

The first drivers to attempt ‘The Double’ – over several days

1967 – Cale Yarborough

Cale Yarborough

NASCAR Cale Yarborough was known to try his hand at IndyCar racing

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In 1967 NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough became the first driver to compete in both the then-World 600 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year.

The former came first on May 28. Broken steering took him out of the reckoning at Charlotte, with the Indy race also eventful. A spin and a crash meant the South Carolina native wouldn’t make the finish, but he was classified 17th in a race won by AJ Foyt.

1968 – Jerry Grant

Jerry Grant NASCAR 1963

Jerry Grant in his NASCAR days

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IndyCar driver Jerry Grant was the second driver to attempt both races in the same year. The 600 came first on May 26, and the Californian would power his Plymouth to a respectable 13th starting place at Charlotte, finishing one place higher.

Four days later he was on the grid at Indy, starting 15th, though an oil leak would see him out after 50 laps.

1970 & 1971 – Donnie Allison

With a six-day gap between the 600 on May 24 and the following 500, ten-time NASCAR Cup race winner Donnie Allison would attempt both races – it still stands as the best combined effort of a driver who ran both contests in one year (with a small racing asterisk attached).

At Charlotte the Florida racer put his car ninth on the grid for the Banjo Matthews team. Things got even better on race day as his car came home first – but he did it with a little help from his friend.

When the clutch went on LeeRoy Yarborough’s Mercury Cyclone, the 14-time race winner then whipped up a storm of his own by taking over Allison’s car to clinch the 600 win, passing a stalled David Pearson late in the race.

Donnie Allison

Stock car racer Donnie Allison was competitive at Indy

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On May 30 Allison found himself at Indianapolis. Qualifying 23rd in his Foyt-Greer Eagle 70, Allison would come through the field to finish fourth behind a podium of Al Unser Sr, Mark Donohue and Dan Gurney.

A year later he would try it again, this time going it alone.

With now just a day between the two races, on May 28 the Miami driver would start 21st in his Foyt-Coyote 71, coming home sixth.

24 hours later he was at Charlotte, and would do even better by finishing runner-up for the famous Wood Brothers team.

Same-day ‘Double Duty’ – every driver to have raced Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on same day

1994 – John Andretti

JOHN ANDRETTI 1994 Indianapolis 500

Andretti racing on Indy ’94 before the NASCAR leg

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From 1974 the two races were held on the same day and at similar times, so it wasn’t even possible to contemplate attempting both races.

This changed in 1992 when Charlotte had floodlights installed. By 1994 the 600 was a night race, and the idea of doing ‘Double Duty’, racing at both the 500 and 600 in one day became possible.

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John Andretti, nephew of racing legend Mario, successfully attempted The Double. The IndyCar veteran had switched to full-time NASCAR competition for ’94, but still fancied a swing at Indianapolis.

He qualified tenth at the Brickyard for Gilmore Racing, one place behind uncle Mario, who was competing in his last 500. He ran as high as third in the race before finishing back where he started in tenth.

He then flew to Charlotte, where ‘The Intimidator’, Dale Earnhardt, remarked “I’m glad he made it!”

“500 miles is one thing, but it’s going to be a tough race here,” said Andretti from his car, which started from the back of the grid.

Engine failure would put him out after he had a solid run in the midfield, but the Pennsylvanian had already made history.

1997, 2000, 2002-2004 – Robby Gordon

Robbie Gordon IndyCar 1996

Robby Gordon had attempted The Double more than any other driver

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A driver with one of the most diverse CVs out there, Robby Gordon, would attempt ‘The Double’ in 1997 – what would prove to be the first of nine attempts.

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Similar to John Andretti, Gordon was already an experienced IndyCar driver, but had decided to give NASCAR his full attention for ’97 – with the exception of The Brickyard.

While Andretti’s attempt was viewed as more of a novelty, Gordon’s was run as a fully-fledged PR event, run by the SABCO team (a collaboration between Cuban entrepreneur Felix Sabates and Chip Ganassi).

Gordon qualified 12th for Indy, but saw the race rained out. He instead headed straight for Charlotte instead, ultimately crashing out. When the 500 was held on Monday, he would retire from that race with reliability issues too.

This would be far from the last time Gordon would attempt Double Duty though.

Gordon tried again in 2000, but once more weather intervened at the Brickyard. This time he committed to the 500, finishing sixth after a lengthy delay before flying to Charlotte. In the meantime back-up driver PJ Jones had started the 600 for him, with Gordon taking over at a pitstop and finishing 35th.

He tried to get an uninterrupted effort in again in 2002, and was rewarded with an eighth at Indy and 16th at Charlotte. The Californian had run in the top five at one point, but leg cramps from the sheer exertion of the gargantuan task forced him back down the field.

Gordon gave it another go in 2003, retiring from Indy and being classified 17th at Charlotte, before his final attempt came in’04: he managed 27 laps before the race was stopped due to rain, and so jetted down to North Carolina, where he finished 20th. Jacques Lazier, who had taken over his car at Indy, retired on lap 88.

1999 & 2001 – Tony Stewart

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Stewart makes a rockstar entrance to Charlotte via the chopper in 1999

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Tony Stewart is perhaps the ultimate IndyCar-crossover driver. Indy Racing League champion for ’96-97, by this time he was already making NASCAR starts and would soon make the full-time switch, becoming a twice Cup champion.

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This didn’t stop him from heading back for a couple of shots at Indy. In 1999 he qualified 24th before finishing a respectable ninth for Tri-Star Motorsports. He would then head to Charlotte, where the crowd roared as Stewart nonchalantly leant through the window of his helicopter as he was flown in.

“I’m pumped up,” he said, before paying deference to his sponsor. “I got a good hour’s sleep on the ‘Home Depot Jet’ so I’m ready to go.”

He proved to be good to his word, racing from the back to clock an impressive fourth place finish.

Two years later and Stewart would attempt The Double again.

Getting a pucker seat with Chip Ganassi for the Brickyard race meant he qualified seventh, and the Indiana race driver would lead 13 laps before finishing fourth. Asked how he kept his focus on such a gruelling day, he replied “Easy, I make the media stand outside!”

In Charlotte he would spin early on, but then impressively fight his way through the field to come home third. Stewart became the so far only driver to complete all 1,100 miles of both races on the same day.

Tony Stewart Ganassi 2001 Indianapolis 50

Decent Stewart run with Ganassi for final Double attempt in 2001

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2014 – Kurt Busch 

2 Kurt Busch Andretti 2014 Indianapolis 500

Busch takes on Indy in 2014

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NASCAR legend Kurt Busch decided to make his Double attempt in 2014. Unlike Stewart, Busch was a driver completely devoted to stock car racing, with single-seater competition foreign to his NASCAR sensibilities.

Busch qualified an impressive 12th in Indianapolis for the Andretti team, with Ed Carpenter taking pole.

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The Vegas native fell back down to 20th during the race, but admirably fought back to classify an unlikely sixth.

“To run my first ever IndyCar race – sixth place is an achievement I’ll have forever [but] I’ve got 600 more miles to go and do,” he said later.

Documentary film shows Busch hooked up to a drip by his medical team on a private jet as he normalised his fluid levels in between races, with preparation taken to new levels compared to previous attempts.

Starting at the back of the NASCAR field, the Las Vegas driver would valiantly fight his way up to fifteenth, but suffer an engine failure mid-race.

“I’d love to do it again,” Busch said afterwards.

2024 – Kyle Larson

2 Kurt Busch Andretti 2014 Indianapolis 500

Ten years after the last Double attempt, now possibly the most high-profile effort of all is taking place this year.

NASCAR Cup champion and 25-time race winner Kyle Larson will race for the McLaren IndyCar squad at this year’s Indy 500, before flying down to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 with his usual Hendrick team.

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“Competing in the Indianapolis 500 is a dream of mine and something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time since I was a child, before I ever began competing in sprint cars,” Larson.

“To do it with Arrow McLaren and Mr. Hendrick, especially, is a dream come true. Maybe get a win or two that day.”

The attempt is particularly pertinent for Larson due to him being an even more avid racer than most of his colleagues, frequently taking part in sprint and dirt racing events in between his arduous NASCAR schedule.

Will this insatiable racer succeed at Indy? His one-time McLaren boss Zak Brown is bullish.

“Kyle Larson is one of those rare drivers and champions that can race anything, so we’re super excited to have him in our race car,” Brown said.

“He reminds me of drivers like Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti who could drive anything on wheels as fast as anyone. To have him join us for the Indy 500 is extremely exciting.”

Kyle Larson 2024 Indianapolis 500

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