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The Memorial Day Double

Coming up in the US is Memorial Day when two of the biggest events in motorsport take place, the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, which provides one of the biggest challenges in global racing.

Allrounder Kyle Larson will attempt to complete Double Duty this year 10 years after Kurt Busch was the last finished sixth for Andretti Autosport in the Indy 500 and was 40th completing 271 laps of the 400 to complete the Coca-Cola 600 racing for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Beginning in 1961, both events were held on the Memorial Day weekend for the first time, but initially on different dates and in 1974 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect allowing the Indy 500 to permanently move to the Sunday of the holiday.

The World 600 as it was known before 1985 took place on the nearest Sunday to Memorial Day, with NASCAR regulars electing to miss this race to tackle Indy. Changes to the points system made this more difficult to achieve, while both races were held at nearly the same time between 1974 and 1992.

What changed the start time at Charlotte was the installation of lights by the Musco Lighting Company in 1992 allowing night racing enabling the start time to change to be later and ending an over lap.

Thus the era of Double Duty began.

John Andretti was the first to attempt Double Duty in 1994 and scored 10th at the Indy 500 after running as high as third before engine failure on lap 220 resulted in 36th. As Andretti was the first to do this, there were some problems including his arrival at Charlotte being just prior to the start forcing him to grid up at the back.

IndyCar veteran Davy Jones was next to target Double Duty, but he failed to qualify for Charlotte.

Robby Gordon did qualify for both in 1997, but Indy was rained out and he crashed out of the Coca-Cola 600. Flying back to Indy on Monday in a race that was again delayed after 15 laps and completed on Tuesday as a fire forced Gordon into retirement.

This leads into the only driver to successfully complete the full distance in both, Tony Stewart.

Although he fell short on his first Double Duty attempt in 1999, Stewart followed this up by achieving the feat again by scoring sixth and third respectively in 2001.

In 2002, Gordon’s second Double Duty attempt was the closest anyone has been to joining Stewart as he scored eighth at Indy and was 16th one lap down at Charlotte to just fall agonisingly short.

This was the best of Gordon’s five attempts, the final of which was in 2004.

A decade after this, it was the turn of Busch and now Larson will become the second person since Gordon’s last attempt to give Double Duty a crack.