In 1994, John Andretti attempted something no one had before. He attempted to run two of motorsports most prestigious races in the same day. He would run the Indianapolis 500 then fly to Charlotte to run in the Coca-Cola 600 that evening.
How did he do it? Nascarman History dove in to find out.
1993: Andretti Drives it All
As nascarman History points out, John Andretti was at a bit of a crossroad with his racing career. After six full-time IndyCar seasons, Andretti was out of a full-time ride. So he decided to race in any car that had an open seat.
According to nascarman History, in 1993, Andretti would run the 24 Hours of Daytona for Jaguar Racing. He would also race in the NHRA Top Fuel class reaching the semi-finals at the FRAM Southern Nationals in Atlanta. Despite losing his full-time ride, Andretti would run the Indianapolis 500 finishing in 10th for A.J. Foyt.
He also competed in four NASCAR Cup Series races towards the end of the 1993 season as well with a full-time ride set up for 1994 with Billy Hagan. However, Andretti had another mad idea up his sleeve.
1994: “The Double” Becomes Possible
In 1993, the Coca-Cola 600, which normally ran on the same day at the same time at the Indianapolis 500, was moved to its’ now traditional late afternoon into sundown into night time slot. The lights were originally added to keep The Winston on the schedule, and they worked so well, that “Humpy” Wheeler elected to bring the Coca-Cola 600 along with it.
According to nascarman History, at the end of 1993, Wheeler was looking for someone to run “The Double”. Originally he thought of Mario Andretti, but, after talking with John, John was the one who volunteered to run both races.
It cannot be overstated how truly crazy this was at the time. Drivers have attempted both races before, but attempting both in the same day seemed absurd to some. No one had ever done this, but John Andretti was the man to try it.
May 1994: John Does it
Nascarman history goes more into the absurdity of the schedule that Andretti had to deal with that year. For some historical context, at that time, Indianapolis 500 time trials were held over the course of two weekends. The first weekend was where the pole was set, and the second weekend was when the cars who were not fast enough were bumped from the field.
Because of his obligations to NASCAR at Sonoma that weekend, nascarman History points out that Andretti needed to qualify for the field on the first day of time trials. After qualifying at Sonoma that day, Andretti came to a rainy Indianapolis to qualify for the Indy 500. He would post a four-lap average speed of 223.263 mph, good enough for 10th on the grid.
That would put him in the field for the Indianapolis 500, and he could now focus on NASCAR at Sonoma, where nascarman History points out he would finish a then career best 19th. The week of the race was even crazier as nascarman History goes through the final week of preparations.
On Wednesday, Andretti would qualify ninth for the Coca Cola 600. Thursday, Andretti was at Indianapolis for Carb Day before going back to Charlotte on Friday, and back to Indianapolis on Sunday.
On race day, according to nascarman History, the Indianapolis 500 began at 11 a.m. Andretti would finish 10th four laps down, and then flew to Charlotte for the Coca Cola 600.
Eventually, he made it, but had to start at the back for missing the drivers meeting. The race did not go his way with a spin on lap 90 and breaking a crankshaft on lap 220 ending his day. However, nascarman History notes that Andretti had caught the attention of the racing world.
Honestly, who could not have been impressed? This was something that had never been done before, and he had done it. He inspired guys such as Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, and Kurt Busch to do the same.
Nascarman History points out in the end that Andretti planned to do the same again in 1997. However, the NASCAR race at Talladega was pushed back by two weeks due to weather, the same weekend as Indianapolis 500 qualifying. Andretti declined to run at Indianapolis.
This was great insight from nascarman History on the original attempt at “The Double.” Something that has been tried multiple times since was started by one man, John Andretti.
He would go on to win two races in NASCAR, including a win in Richard Petty’s famous 43 car at Martinsville in 1999. Andretti would tragically of colon cancer in January of 2020 at the age of 56. A man who could drive anything that had four wheels was the first to attempt 1100 miles in one day.