By Zach Catanzareti & Joseph Wolkin
Each spring, the question lingers in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and IndyCar Series garages: Who, if any, will attempt the double?
The double, of course, refers to the two-races-in-one-day spectacle that sees a driver run the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Indianapolis, Ind., followed by the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., later that night. It’s a grueling feat — over 1,000 miles, given both races are run to or near completion — and one that has been attempted by a mere select few in auto racing over the years.
Kurt Busch is one of the few, the proud, the potentially exhausted. Running the Indianapolis 500 in 2014, Busch pulled double duty, competing in the Coke 600 later in the day. He finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500, picking up the Rookie of the Year honor for that year’s event.
Though he did not participate in the 2015 Indy 500, Busch hasn’t necessarily ruled out the possibility of returning to the Yard of Bricks in something other than a stock car.
“It’s still on the burner, and it isn’t burning as hot as it was in 2014,” Busch tells Frontstretch. “I committed to going and doing it. But this year, it’s the 100th anniversary and there is extra hype around it. There are plenty of sponsorship opportunities that I think work for it, whether it is Haas Automation in the open-wheel world, Monster Energy from my side of things and Chevrolet, the manufacturer that wants to go in there and take one of their guys and cross-promote with it.
“Right now, the focus is on the stock car, the team and the No. 41 car and getting us locked into the Chase early in the season.”
Busch ran the 2014 Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport. However, due to his strengthened relationship with Chevrolet, he says that he would not race for a non-Chevrolet team if he were to drive the 500.
But Busch isn’t the only name linked with a possible double-duty run. A certain young gun in NASCAR who has won in virtually everything he’s ever raced could conceivably have his sights set on Brickyard glory as well: Kyle Larson.
Since 2014, Larson has two starts in the Weathertech Sportscar Championship, including a victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With an entry with Ganassi for the 2016 running of the event, Larson hopes to repeat as champion.
So what can possibly be next on his hit list? Why not the world’s biggest race, the Indianapolis 500?
As it turns out, Larson just may have sparked the whole question himself with a tweet from December of last year.
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) December 3, 2015
Though the tweet sparked excitement among racing nation – even car owner Chip Ganassi later replied, “Let’s throw in Monaco, Le Mans and the US Nationals in one season!” – Larson is staying realistic on his chances of making the whole month of May come to fruition.
“I’m willing to but it just really comes down to if it would all just work out,” Larson says. “Someday, I’d definitely like to run the Indy 500. I don’t know if it’s in the near future but I’m still young and that race isn’t going anywhere so maybe some time before I die I can run the Indy 500.”
Lacking IndyCar experience himself, Larson says he wouldn’t be shy reaching out to anybody who assist him in the transition, including Danica Patrick, who competed in seven Indy 500s from 2005-2011.
“I’m sure Danica has mentioned it,” Larson says. “I know [IndyCar driver and Sportscar teammate] Tony Kanaan has talked about starting deep in the field there. I’m sure if I got the opportunity to race, I would do as much talking with everybody that I knew I could.”
For Patrick, who drove to a best finish of third in the 2009 running of the race, she believes the key to Indy success is fairly simple.
“Having a good car is important,” Patrick says. “You can muscle a car around Indy, so I think that is one of the things that’s very important on that day. Then just keeping a level head, keeping your head in it. It’s a long day and lots can happen.”
One factor that possibly has limited the amount of non-IndyCar interest from drivers is the date of the event. Traditionally on Memorial Day weekend, NASCAR holds their longest event of the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day while Formula 1 stars are racing earlier in the day in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Despite the difficulty and rarity of attempts in running both the 500 and 600, Larson is used to running multiple races in one day, becoming only the second driver to win the 4-Crown Nationals in 2011.
“Not to the length of those races, but I’ve ran three different types of cars in one night before at Eldora and won all three of them,” Larson said. “It’s way different because you’re racing in two different states in two different types of vehicles. The logistics of it all, flying back and forth the whole month is probably very tough.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing so I’d love to do it.”
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