Kurt Busch’s attempt of the “double” this weekend has garnered national attention. The driver of the #41 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing will try to win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, leading to crossover attention from the two major automotive sports.
Before NASCAR, IndyCar ruled the American racing circuit. In the early days of NASCAR there was a constant battle for stock car racing to keep their new stars from giving in to the appeal of open wheel racing. Nowadays, the two sports co-exist with drivers at various points trying their hand at the other, or in some cases crossing over full-time.
That leads to the question: Why doesn’t this happen more?
Busch’s story has been all over television, print, online media and radio. This weekend has been hyped since it was announced in March. Here is his first interview with us on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio shortly after announcing he would be trying the “double”:
The casual sports fan knows this is happening. At the end of the day, if you can hook the casual sports fan, it is a win for everyone involved. Would Busch’s challenge this weekend be any less interesting if it happened more often? How about every year?
Do NASCAR fans want to see this more? Very few successful stock car racers have competed in open wheel and matched their success in NASCAR. Should that matter when looking at the future? We don’t know what can happen in any given race. Even if Busch goes out and is mediocre or runs poorly in the Indianapolis 500, you still want to see how he rebounds to run the Coca-Cola 600 later that night. The taxing of his brain and body is what makes this so intriguing. Can he focus for 1,100 miles this Sunday?
Only recently has technology allowed the “double” to become an attainable achievement. Take into account hydration, rest, travel, comfort and safety; all of these items are incredibly more advanced than the days of just jumping into the car, strapping in and racing.
Donnie Allison was one of the few NASCAR drivers to find success in the Indianapolis 500. In 1970, the “Alabama Gang” member came in fourth place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his way to Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors. He followed that up in 1971 with a sixth place performance in the Memorial Day weekend event. He remembered his open wheel experience on Tuesday night with Buddy Baker and Brad Gillie on Late Shift:
What if going forward, we saw a different NASCAR driver try their hand at this? How about if Kyle Busch attempts it next year? Maybe Jeff Gordon goes for it the following season? Could a youngster in the sport do it? Maybe a Kyle Larson or Parker Kligerman, who has been reported to be looking for an Indy 500 ride in the future?
NASCAR could even reciprocate the invitation. Let’s see a different IndyCar driver compete in the Daytona 500 every year. Not only would there be crossover appeal, but it would be something different. Something unique. A different person seeing the world from a new perspective.
There is a lot more respect between the sports than people expect. If you have heard our own Buddy Baker discuss Busch’s plans, there is a true appreciation for the different skill sets necessary to compete in both styles of racing. Making this happen every year could mean great things not just for NASCAR, but for sports in general.
Would more people tune in to see how these people compete in a foreign field of drivers and cars?
Or would this lose its appeal if done too often?