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Kurt Busch’s ‘The Double’ Challenge: 10 Years Later

Ten years ago on this day, March 4, Kurt Busch announced his attempt to tackle ‘The Double.’ It’s the ultimate motorsports challenge that involves competing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, two prestigious events centered around two motorsports series, on the same day during Memorial Day weekend. 

Busch’s first interest in attempting ‘The Double’ occurred in early May 2013 when he tested an IndyCar powered by a Chevrolet engine for Andretti Autosport at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. By then, the 2004 Cup Series champion from Las Vegas, Nevada, was campaigning in the Cup circuit for Furniture Row Racing after spending the majority of the previous season driving for Phoenix Raceway.  

After spending the remainder of the 2013 season along with the early months of the 2014 season mulling over the decision to attempt ‘The Double’, Busch’s decision and announcement for the challenge was officially made on March 4, 2014, two months before the Indy 500 would occur, as he would join forces with Andretti to pilot a fifth entry for the organization. 

On April 28, Busch’s Indy 500 ride with Andretti Autosport was revealed, where he would pilot the No. 26 Dallara-Honda sponsored by Suretone Entertainment in IndyCar’s most prestigious events on the calendar to commence the double duty process. He would then fly back to Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, in time to compete in NASCAR’s longest event on the calendar, the Coca-Cola 600, behind the wheel of his full-time Cup Series ride: the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing. 

A day later, Busch’s double challenge on the track commenced as he piloted his Andretti entry around Indianapolis Motor Speedway during a refresher test program. He turned in 66 laps during the program and recorded a top speed of 220.844 mph. Another week later, the Las Vegas veteran topped the speed charts during the event’s Rookie Orientation Program with an average running speed of 222.289 mph, which cleared him to attempt a qualifying run for the Indy 500, before he posted the second-fastest speed at 224.159 mph behind teammate EJ Viso during a practice session the following week. 

On May 17, when the qualification process of the 2014 Indy 500 occurred, Busch made two qualifying attempts and ended up posting the 10th-fastest average speed at 229.960 mph, which was one spot short of reaching the Fast Nine Shootout. Flying back to Charlotte Motor Speedway to compete in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, where he finished 11th, Busch would participate in the Indy 500’s second qualifying session the following day, May 18. With his best four-lap average qualifying speed averaging at 230.782 mph, he ended up claiming the 12th-place starting spot for the 2014 Indy 500 and watched from a distance as Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter claimed the pole position. 

Aside from time management, the only hurdle to Busch’s double attempt was being involved in a hard accident during the post-qualifying practice session on May 19, where he slid into the outside wall while entering the backstretch and spun across the track before coming to rest towards the backstretch’s infield grass. The wreck resulted in Busch’s team using a backup car from teammate Marco Andretti as Busch’s for Carb Day and the Indy 500.  

Meanwhile, Busch would proceed to qualify in 28th place for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 22 as his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team had Parker Kligerman tabbed as a backup competitor for Busch in the event of a scheduling conflict that would result in the latter having traveling issues from Indianapolis to Charlotte. 

On race day for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, Busch, who started alongside IndyCar champions Scott Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya on the fourth row from 12th place, ran a consistent race and spent the majority of the day running within the top 20. Amid a handful of late-race incidents that eliminated Dixon, Charlie Kimball, teammate James Hinchcliffe and pole-winner Carpenter out of contention, Busch climbed his way up the leaderboard to run within the top 10 with 25 laps remaining.

Then while running in seventh place with 10 laps remaining, he barely dodged an accident entering the backstretch that eliminated Townsend Bell out of contention to gain a spot. With scheduling concerns rising as the event was placed in a red-flag period to clear Bell’s wreckage, the race would proceed in stable time for a six-lap shootout, where Busch would steer his No. 26 Honda to a strong sixth-place finish while teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay fended off a late charge from Helio Castroneves to win the Indy 500 for the first time in his career.  

Despite returning to Charlotte Motor Speedway in time for the start of the Coca-Cola 600, Busch was ultimately forced to start at the rear of the field due to missing the pre-race driver’s meeting. When the green flag for the start of the 600-mile event, he spent the early stages of the event pinned a lap down and mired within the top 30 in the running order. While trying to methodically carve his way up the leaderboard, Busch gained a break on Lap 148 when a debris caution enabled him to cycle back onto the lead lap after being pinned a lap down, and by then, he was running within the top 15.  

Racing as high as within the top-10 mark as the event surpassed its halfway mark of 400-scheduled laps, where he would receive the free pass a second time due to another debris caution on Lap 222, Busch’s 600-mile event at Charlotte slowly began to go south just past the Lap 250 mark as he radioed the loss of two cylinders to his No. 41 Chevrolet. By Lap 273, his event came to a bitter end after his engine went up in smoke entering the backstretch, which resulted in Busch nursing his car to the garage as he retired in 40th place, thus ending his long double run, while pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson would proceed to win. 

Overall, Busch completed a total of 906 miles from the planned 1,100 (471 of 600 combined laps). He joined John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart as the only competitors to have attempted and achieved ‘The Double’ at least once to date. Despite not achieving a victory in either event during his double challenge, Busch would be named the 2014 Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year recipient as he was the highest-finishing rookie on the track.

In addition, his sixth-place result during the Indy 500 matches Gordon and Stewart’s best on-track result in the Indy 500 for any competitor participating in ‘The Double’ challenge. Stewart, however, is the only competitor to date to have completed all 1,100 miles of competition during ‘The Double’, which he accomplished in 2001 after finishing sixth at Indy before settling in third at Charlotte. 

“We gave it our all,” Busch said in the garage on FOX. “To feel the stock car right after driving an INDYCAR was a day I’ll never forget. I can’t let the mood here with the [expired] car [at Charlotte] dampen what happened up at Indy today. That was very special. It takes a team everywhere. All in all, I’m very satisfied. I trained hard. [I] had a lot of people helping me out. Everybody worked hard on both sides.” 

Following his 2014 double attempt, Busch, who would not make any additional attempts for another double bid, would proceed to make the 2014 Cup Series Playoffs and end up in 12th place in the final standings. He then spent the next eight seasons accumulating a total of nine Cup victories and making the Playoffs from 2015-21 while competing between three organizations (Stewart-Haas Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and 23XI Racing). An accident during a qualifying session at Pocono Raceway in July 2022 would force Busch to retire from full-time NASCAR competition before the 2023 season amid sustaining concussion-like symptoms, with Busch officially announcing his retirement from racing for good this past August. 

This season, a new name strives to be added to the list of competitors who have successfully performed the double on Memorial Day weekend as Kyle Larson declared his bid in January 2023 to attempt ‘The Double’ challenge for the 2024 season. Larson, the 2021 Cup Series champion from Elk Grove, California, will join forces with Arrow McLaren and attempt to qualify for this year’s 108th running of the Indy 500 in the No. 17 Dallara-Chevrolet.

He will then travel to Charlotte Motor Speedway and conclude the day by competing in the Coca-Cola 600 behind his familiar No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup circuit, where he will bid for his second 600 victory after winning his first in 2021. 

The 2024 Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to occur on May 26 and air at 11 a.m. ET on NBC. The 2024 Coca-Cola 600 will follow suit on the same day and air at 6 p.m. ET on FOX. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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