What is the Double Duty / Memorial Day Racing Challenge?

You may have heard of the Le Mans 24 Race, or even the Daytona 24, but not many have heard for the Double duty challenge. Where as Le Mans is a one race with one car challenge. The Memorial Day Double (Double Duty) is a little different. We will take a look at what it entails, what makes it so challenging an who has risen to the challenge below.

The Double Duty or Memorial Day Double is a two race challenge. Drivers have to race both the Indy Car Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Coca Cola 600 on the same day – Memorial Day – each year. Only one driver has managed to complete Full race distance in both, Tony Stewart in 2001, although 5 have made the attempt.

So as you can see with 5 drivers making 10 attempts and only one succeeding, it is incredibly difficult to achieve the Double duty, and that’s just as a driver. The logistics involved add even more difficulty to it and all the pieces have to fall into place perfectly to even make it to the starting line of both the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 races never mind complete them.

Which Drivers Have Attempted the Double Duty Racing Challenge?

There have been 5 drivers, according to wiki, who have attempted the Double Duty challenge. These are John Andretti, Davy Jones, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch.

DriverYearIndy 500 ResultsCoca Cola 600 ResultsNotes
John Andretti199410th36thFirst driver to race in both ( mechanical issues )
Davy Jones199523rdDid not qualify. Didn’t manage to qualify at Charlotte
Robby Gordon199729th41st (186 laps completed)Indy 500 Was rained out till the Tuesday.
Tony Stewart19999th4th finished 4 laps down so was not a factor
Robby Gordon20006th35th (389 lapsRain delayed the start and relief driver started the Charlotte race.
Tony Stewart20016th3rdFIrst and only driver to complete all 1,100 miles in one day.
Robby Gordon20028th16thMissed out by one lap!!
Robby Gordon200322nd17th (275 laps) Gearbox trouble at indy and rain endedOpens in a new tab. the 600 Race.
Robby Gordon200429th (completed 88 laps) 20thRian delayed the start and Relief driver drove at Indy.
Kurt Busch20146th40th (271 laps)Missed out due to Engine Failure in Charlotte.
Which is Easier to Drive: NASCAR or IndyCar?

Why is the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 Races used for Double Duty?

These two races are important races in both the Indycar Schedule and the NASCAR Cup Series. With regard to the Indianapolis 500 it is the most important race of the year in IndyCar and watched by up to 300,000 fans at the track and millions more on TV.

The Coca Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway is the longest and one of the most prestigious races in NASCAROpens in a new tab. and traditionally they are held on the same day. Although there are other Indycar races and NASCAR races that overlap these two are the most well known of the two and lend themselves well to creating the double duty challenge.

I have been asked why it isn’t the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500, the answer is fairly easily. There is 3 months between those races not 3 hours! although still a challenge it isn’t as challenging as doing to plus 500 mile races on the same day!

What is the Double Duty  Memorial Day Racing Challenge

How is the Double Duty Challenge Achieved?

As we have mentioned any driver attempting this challenge has to complete both the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Coca Cola 600 races in the same day. Crashing out of not finishing is consider a good effort, but does not complete the challenge. Completion means finishing both races.

How this is achieved comes down to more than just the effort and ability of the driver however.

Broadcaster Double Duty

Only one Network broadcaster has managed to broadcast live from both races. Doug Rice from the Performance Racing Network managed to report from the pits in the 2015 Indy 500 and then flew to North Carolina to commentate on the the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway that evening.

When was the First Attempt at Double Duty?

John Andretti was the first driver to try to finish complete races at both Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600. His attempt was on May 29th 1994 however he was unsuccessful due to engine failure on lap 224. However is attempt did spark the interest of other drivers to try to complete this challenge.

Why is the Double Duty Racing Challenge Difficult?

There are a number of reasons why the double duty challenge is so difficult. We list these below.

Before they get to raceday they have to qualify for both events, this means qualifying and flying back and forward the week leading up before they even turn on the engine on race day.

How to complete the Race Day for a Double Duty.

  • Drivers have to complete 1100 miles of high speed intense racing in a single day.
  • Drivers have to adapt to two completely different racing cars and styles of racing.
  • The timing, not just of the races has to be planned to the minute.
  • The Indy 500 Starts at 11.AM EDT the driver has to complete the race
  • They then have to helicopter to the airport
  • Then a private jet to Charlotte (578 miles away)
  • and get to the track before the race starts at 6pm. with at least 30 mins prep time needed.
  • then complete the longest race in the NASCAR Series without crashing!

When Tony Stewart tried this they gave him 2 litres of liquidsOpens in a new tab. through an IV on the plane!

Who is the Only Successful Double Duty Driver

Of the 10 attempts at the Double Duty only one, so far has managed to complete the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 and the combined 1100 miles of racing it entails. Tony Stewart drove a Chip Ganassi car in the Indy 500 and a Joe Gibbs car in the Coca Cola 600. Incredibly he came 6th in the Indy 500 and 3rd in the Coca Cola 600 despite starting from the rear of the pack kind of proving the importance of pole positionOpens in a new tab. in NASCAR single handedly!

This feat, to date, has not been repeated.

Final Thoughts

Driving 1100 Miles with about 1 hour 40 mins of break time, if rushing around from airport to airport, can be considered break time is an incredible feat of endurance. to do this and be competitive in a race with some of the best race car drivers across two motorsports is simply unbelievable.

Tony Stewart may the the first one who has achieved this, but credit needs to be given to the other drivers who have come so close within a lap in some cases, of emulating this as well.

At some point he will be joined in the list of great drivers who can race both the indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 in the same day, but at the moment that glory belongs to just one driver: Tony Stewart.




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