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Woody: Good-bye, Good Riddance To The Double

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 31 2011

Robby Gordon leads Michael Waltrip during the 2004 Coca-Cola 600. It was Gordon's second race of the day. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Last Sunday’s Indy 500 and Coke 600 shared dramatic finishes but they didn’t share a single driver. Good. Perhaps the NASCAR guys who used to “do the double” have finally come to their senses.

I suppose we had to admire their grit but I always questioned their gumption.

I also questioned their dedication to their NASCAR teams, sponsors and fans. They short-changed them by running the Indianapolis 500 before jetting to Charlotte for the same-day Coke 600.

Leading up to last Sunday’s Charlotte race we heard a familiar refrain from driver after driver about how grueling the 600 is. They talked about how physically demanding and emotionally draining it is to run 600 miles. They said it’s the toughest test of the year for man and machine. They said grinding out those final 100 butt-numbing miles around Charlotte Motor Speedway is sheer torture.

And yet some drivers used to go into the race after logging 500 miles at Indy earlier in the day! What could they have been thinking?

There’s no way they could give their best effort in NASCAR’s longest race after running 500 miles at Indy. For starters, it’s an early start to a long day. They have to be up at dawn at Indy to get to the

Tony Stewart attempted the Indy 500/Coke 600 double a number of times. He never won either. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

track for all the pre-race activities. Then comes the race itself, 500 miles of blazing speeds in arguably motorsports’ most intense, pressure-packed event.

Next it’s out of the cockpit and into a waiting van for a frantic sprint to the airport, a flight to Charlotte, a chopper hop to the track, arriving barely in time for the start … hectic, harried and hurried and with 600 exhausting miles still to go.

Running the Indy 500 is a full day’s work for any driver; rushing to Charlotte to race 600 more miles is utter madness.

Track promoters loved it, of course. Doing the double drew tons of media attention. Never mind that it was a silly gimmick that gypped the driver’s NASCAR team out of his best effort.

I never understood what was in it for the driver. I never bought the story that he was simply drawn to the chance to run at Indy. If that was it, he should have hit the Bricks and called it a day. Isn’t the thrill and challenge of running the Indianapolis 500 enough for one day? Why try to squeeze in 600 more miles at Charlotte?

I always suspected it was more a matter of ego and a “Hey everybody, look at me!” ploy for attention.

I know – Tony Stewart once posted Top 10 finishes in both the Indy 500 and the Coke 600. He was also helped from his car, placed on a gurney and administered IV fluids following the final wobbly laps of his 1,100-mile racing marathon. Did a driver in such an exhausted physical state belong on a racetrack running almost 200 miles per hour? Of course not.

Could a driver that drained and dehydrated give his best effort in the final, decisive laps? No way.

I admired Tony’s grit but I questioned his dedication to his NASCAR team. If he hadn’t run 500 miles at Indy, he might have won that year’s Coke 600 instead of having to settle for a Top 10 finish.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some driver, encouraged by promoters, tries to do the double again sometime in the future – no matter how selfish it may be. Call it a personal quest, a professional challenge or a shameless self-promotion, an ego, once inflated, is hard to deflate.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 31 2011
6 Comments

6 Comments »

  • Brian says:

    Larry, Get over the double thing no driver has even attempted it in what 6-8 YEARS… This is an article about absolutely nothing since no one tried it and no one has in quite a while.
    It is 2011 not 2001.
    Hope you did not get paid much for this non-story.

  • Terry says:

    Woody,
    I almost choked listening to the TV guy’s going on about how grueling this was for todays drivers. These go carts are just SOOOO….hard to drive.Pleeeeezzzz…..
    Bud Moore…would have laughed at you if you cried about no COOL BOX…in his Mercury…..
    Petty’s feet I am sure Never got hot……
    No need for power steering in say a 1963 Bonneville…..
    they handle just like a Lotus…..
    Pearson must have trained ALL year for Charlotte….I bet Leonard got him personal trainer and room at the Wood Bros garage.
    I am just a grumpy old school fan with a GOOD memory.
    Good piece of writing there…Woody.
    Terry

  • HoosierNick says:

    As a race fan, I would still like to see the double. But who came up with the bright idea of running both races on the same day? What is wrong with doing Charlotte on Saturday evening and then running Indy in its traditional Sunday slot? That still leaves Memorial Day Monday as a rain date for either race. I think the egos of both tracks need to be bumped down a notch or two so that the race fan can benefit. I enjoy both open wheel and stock car and I think there are enough dollars available in a recovering ecomomy to support both races. Just look at the crowd at Indy this year! Maybe the drivers can physically make both starts, but the average race fan has to choose between races. If NASCAR and INDYCAR are smart, they should be able to figure this out so that they can enjoy having my ticket money in both pockets.

  • vak7 says:

    Maybe a one-series driver will lack the stamina to run both races. But for guys who run endurance races like the Baja 1000 or Dakar Rally, it’s merely a Sunday cruise. Robby Gordon could still do it. And not be taken out on a gurney after the race.

  • Joe says:

    For reference, it seems a round trip drive from Indy to Concord and back again is 1,156 miles.
    No thanks.