Kurt Busch has strong shot at 500-600 sweep
March 04, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
It's been 10 years since a NASCAR regular warmed up his Memorial Day weekend motor at the Indianapolis 500 when Robby Gordon last attempted the feat in 2004.
And with the blessing of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner and three-time series champ Tony Stewart – himself a former Indy/Charlotte "Doubler" – 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch will be in prime position to make a legitimate run at twin triumph, including a second career victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"It's a great opportunity for Kurt and I fully support him," Stewart said Tuesday. "He'll have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but he has an overwhelming amount of driving talent on his side. He has a great car owner with Michael Andretti, who's not only an owner, but he's been a driver too. Michael has so much to offer Kurt in terms of knowledge and first-hand experience. It really seems like a natural pairing."
The suspense and potential created by this is something Chip Ganassi knows first-hand from the team owner perspective.
In 2010, Ganassi watched his driver Dario Franchitti take the checkered flag at the Indianapolis 500 and before Franchitti could complete his first victory lap, Ganassi jumped over pit wall and declared, "We're going to Charlotte! I've got a new boost of energy and we've got another race to win.''
And so after a very brief stop to swig victory milk and kiss the bricks, Ganassi gathered his traveling party and flew off to Charlotte, where he found his driver Jamie McMurray on the bumper -- of all people -- Busch, who was then driving for Roger Penske.
Busch beat McMurray that day but Ganassi's 1-2 finish was the true victory. And now Busch will try to better Ganassi's mark by a spot in what is the toughest single-day feat in American motorsports.
Even when the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 were held on separate days, it was major challenge.
Donnie Allison boasts the best combined finishes of the seven NASCAR regulars – Cale Yarborough, Jerry Grant, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Tony Stewart, John Andretti and Robby Gordon -- to run both races in the same year.
In 1970, Allison won the Charlotte 600-miler and six days later finished fourth at Indianapolis. Yarbrough won at Charlotte in 1969 but finished 23rd at Indy five days later.
Of the three – Stewart, Andretti and Gordon - who have attempted The Double in a single day, Busch's boss Stewart came the closest to making history. He finished sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte in 2001 – the first time a driver completed all 1,100 miles of competition.
Don't doubt the benefit in having Stewart as a team owner. It is unlikely Busch would be able to make this happen if not for Stewart's support.
All of this is not lost on Busch, who not only has Stewart and Andretti as resources but whose SHR teammate Danica Patrick knows a thing or two about racing at Indy -- nearly winning the Indy 500 in her 2005 debut.
"I want to pop quiz everyone who's done (the double) to learn as much as I can to just be able to anticipate what's next and have things checked off your list so that you're mentally prepared," said Busch, whose car will honor The Armed Forces Foundation as the country celebrates Memorial Day.
"I have to thank Stewart Haas Racing for giving me the chance to fulfill this dream, to challenge myself in motorsports and to do something special in this day and age."
"Special" meaning The Double -- as in competing in both races. A win at Indianapolis would be special, but it's only the first part of what would make the day truly remarkable. The real glory comes by topping it off in Charlotte -- in front of the NASCAR faithful in his adopted hometown, where he could distinguish himself like no other before.