The ultimate “double duty” for any NASCAR driver is being able to race the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indy 500. Here are five drivers who could do just that.
Racing a NASCAR crown jewel event is no small feat in and of itself. Combining that with the Indy 500, one of the most prestigious races outside of NASCAR — and in all of motorsports — is a tall order, to say the least.
However, it’s not impossible. John Andretti became the first to attempt such in 1994, but he didn’t complete every lap of the 1,100-mile marathon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. But NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart did in 2001, and he is still the only driver to finish on the lead lap of the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
With a shot at motorsports immortality on the line, the legacy of being able to not only join Stewart as the only driver to complete both, but to surpass “Smoke” in winning one or two of the events would give any driver an achievement for the ages.
Kurt Busch became the fourth and most recent driver to attempt the feat in 2014. Here are five more drivers who could pull off the Memorial Day Double.
NASCAR candidates for Indy 500: No. 1 – Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney has been able to prove himself as a threat on just about any style of NASCAR track on the circuit. A multi-time superspeedway winner, Blaney has also scored wins at other tracks such as Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
His interest in running the Indy 500 is not unknown, either. Blaney told Beyond the Flag that he would “would love to run the 500 one day” and added that “a handful of NASCAR guys have done that, and that’d be a really cool group to be in”.
The connections to do just such rely heavily on his current NASCAR team, Team Penske, and their owner Roger Penske. He is not only an IndyCar team owner, but the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the NTT IndyCar Series as well.
Fielding a competitive car for the 27-year-old wouldn’t be out of reach by any means, and with a team owner who also has an IndyCar team which annually competes on the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) oval in Speedway, Indiana, the opportunity is there.
When NASCAR ran the Brickyard 400 on the oval portion of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Blaney posted a best finish of seventh place in 2019, a promising finish on a track not designed for stock cars. This could scream success in an open-wheel car on a track designed for open-wheel cars.