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USA Today via Reuters

Running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 is not for the faint-hearted. Kyle Larson will become only the fifth driver to attempt this nerve-racking mission. Before him, Tony Stewart remains the only one to have completed both races on his second attempt. But the NASCAR Hall of Famer faced dehydration and fatigue in the process. However, Larson’s attempt at Double Duty may have gotten a little more difficult due to a former POTUS.

From hosting its 40th anniversary at Martinsville to sporting the highest number of Cup wins, HMS has a lot of reasons to celebrate. Now another grand spectacle is in the works, as HMS’ star driver Kyle Larson gears up for a hectic two-race schedule but will he able to make it to both races?

Former POTUS could spoil Kyle Larson’s attempt

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The physical demands of pulling off the Double Duty, a 1100 mile affair and the fact Larson will start from Number 5 at Indy 500, were challenging enough, in addition to the predicted harsh weather. But the following news update could take a further toll on Larson’s ambitions.

Charlotte Motor Speedway general manager Greg Walter updated that Donald Trump or “the 45th President of the United States is making plans to attend our race this weekend.” Trump is currently in a contentious election campaign, trying to topple President Joe Biden from his position.

Should the Republican candidate attend, things would get complicated for Kyle Larson. A NASCAR insider summed up his apprehensions: “Donald Trump coming to the Coca-Cola 600 isn’t a surprise considering he’s on the campaign trail. My only concern is it effecting Kyle Larson’s fly in considering every airport in the area shuts down.”

The three-hour Indianapolis 500 will flag off at 12:45 p.m. This gives Kyle Larson a short window, as he will have a helicopter ride to take him to the airport from Indianapolis at 4 and fly to Charlotte in a charter jet to arrive for the Coca-Cola 600, scheduled to start at 6:18 PM. Trump’s presence may restrict the airspace in and around Charlotte, thus causing a possible delay in Larson’s arrival for the race.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s website issued alarm calls as well. “No person may operate an aircraft over or in the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, the Vice President, or other public figures contrary to the restrictions established by the FAA and published in a NOTAM.”

Notably, Trump was also in attendance during the Daytona 500 in 2020, when he was in office. He even took a lap around the racetrack in his Presidential limousine. Though he won’t any such duties this time around, his presence could hamper Larson’s chances of getting to Charlotte on time.

In case, he misses out on the race, it would mean losing ground in the standings. But HMS owner Rick Hendrick also said in case there is a possibility of a delay, it would lead to Larson pulling out of the Indy 500.

He said, “We know we need to be at Charlotte for the points, and we’re just going to let it play out then we’ll make that decision Sunday. It’d be very tough, be very disappointing because of all the effort everyone has put in … He’s in such a good position, it would be extremely hard.” The weather forecast for Indianapolis on Memorial Day shows a 60% chance of rain, hence HMS could be forced into an early decision to get Larson to Charlotte on time.

But if the weather stays clear, Charlotte authorities may hopefully stall the race to wait for Kyle Larson in case he is late. The All-Star Race was similarly postponed for 16 minutes to accommodate Larson’s arrival. Since he is attempting a rare feat in NASCAR, some flexibility can be afforded. This is what Larson had hoped for as well in an interview not so long ago.

He was asked by Bob Pockrass if he ends up winning Indy 500, will he be able to make it to Coca-Cola 600 in time? Larson replied, “I would hope NASCAR would be smart enough like delay the program just a little bit. I think the opportunity for TV ratings and stuff would be great. It’s going to be super tough to win that race. So I’m not even thinking about it yet. Just hoping no weather is an issue or anything like that. Complete your laps and get over to Charlotte and race hard to try and win that.”

As mentioned earlier only four drivers have attempted the double, with only Tony Stewart going the distance in his second shot in 2001, completing all 1,100 miles in a single day. John Andretti was the first to attempt Double Duty in 1994. He finished 10th in the Indy 500 with AJ Foyt Enterprises before heading to Charlotte. There he bowed out after 220 laps with engine troubles, finishing 36th.

Roby Gordon then took up the challenge three years later but Indy 500 was washed out so both races didn’t start on the same day. His attempt in 2000 could foreshadow what might go down with Larson this year. Gordon’s attempt in Indy 500 was delayed due to rain but he eventually completed all laps and finished sixth. But by the time he arrived in Charlotte, the race had already begun. Gordon would have two more attempts, first in 2002 where he finished eighth at Indy and 16th at Charlotte in 2002, completing all but one lap. In 2003, he completed both races but the race in Charlotte was shortened to 414 miles.

Kurt Busch was the last to take the endurance test in 2014. He finished sixth in Indy 500 but in Charlotte the engine of his No. 41 Chevy blew up midway through the race at lap 271. In the end he fell 200 miles short of completing Double Duty.

Larson will hope for better luck as the North Wilkesboro race day allowed him to practice a mock drill of The Double.

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Larson is fully prepared for Memorial Day

Given the well-versed stories of Tony Stewart passing out at Charlotte on his double run, Kyle Larson is coming prepared. Ahead of D-Day on Memorial Weekend, he undertook a practice run on Sunday. After qualifying fifth for the Indy 500, he hopped into a helicopter via Gasoline Alley and a waiting SUV. Then Larson changed his air choppers twice before finally reaching North Wilkesboro three hours after his qualifying ended.

USA Today via Reuters

NASCAR and FOX both worked with Hendrick Motorsports to make Kyle Larson’s presence a reality. They provided a bit of buffer and delayed the All-Star Race by a quarter of an hour. This is understandable, as Larson drives TV ratings as one of NASCAR’s biggest stars. The HMS driver arrived around 8:30 p.m., started at the back of the field, and cruised to the front row by the end, finishing in 4th place.

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Kyle Larson’s sheer talent as a racer may propel him toward podium finishes at The Double, at the very least.