Larson Shines Ahead of Ambitious IndyCar-NASCAR Doubleheader

IndyCar/Justin Walsh

For Rick Hendrick, owner of the Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR racing team, it represents a milestone. “I never thought I’d get to have an entry in the Indy 500 in my life,” he said. But he does, and his car will start Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 from fifth place on the grid.

It began when one of his NASCAR drivers, Kyle Larson, expressed a persistent interest in adding IndyCars to the list of vehicles he has raced. And that’s a long list, ranging from IMSA prototype sports cars to dirt late models. “Everybody knew that Kyle wanted to run the Indy 500,” Hendrick said, so he started talking to Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, about entering Larson in one of Brown’s Arrow-McLaren IndyCars. “We put a deal together,” said Hendrick, and so far, “It couldn’t have gone any better.”

“Yeah, it’s been awesome from day one. Mr. H and his entire organization are absolutely legendary in motorsports,” Brown said. He and Hendrick met the media Tuesday on a Zoom call.

2024 Indy 600 Qualifying Kyle Larson
IndyCar/Joe Skibinski

Larson is doing “the double”—racing at Indianapolis early Sunday, then jetting and helicoptering to Concord, North Carolina and the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600. He’ll be the fifth NASCAR driver to attempt the feat. Only Tony Stewart, in 2001, completed all 1100 laps. Larson will be the first driver to try it since Kurt Busch’s attempt in 2014.

And yes, it’s hard to imagine that things could have gone any better—so far. Larson, 31, took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway quickly, increasing his speed as he practiced for last weekend’s qualifying. As mentioned, Larson qualified the Dallara/Chevrolet fifth out of 34 cars, with a four-lap average speed of 232.846 mph.

“Nervous as I’ve ever been watching qualifying,” said Hendrick. “The pressure of running four laps is something I’m not used to. One lap maybe at Daytona, or two. It’s just biting your fingernails. But Zak and his whole group have just done an amazing job, and we’re very fortunate to be partners with him and his team.”

Still, “I’m not used to watching a car go into the corner at 241,” Hendrick said.

2024 Indy 600 Qualifying crowd
IndyCar/Paul Hurley

Brown said that prior to qualifying, “I would have said the front half of the field would have been an awesome result. I wouldn’t have put much money on qualifying fifth. I think that’s a testament to Kyle’s ability and the collective effort of both teams to give him a race car and an environment to compete at the front.”

Well, true, but he hasn’t exactly competed yet. But given Larson’s raw talent, a very fast car and hopefully a competent pit crew, he may indeed run at the front. That said, there may still be obstacles ahead. Larson is the NASCAR Cup series points leader, so it’s important for him to make it to Charlotte on time. Driver introductions are at 5:25 p.m. ET.

But what if there’s a rain delay at Indy? This is’s forecast for Sunday in Indianapolis, as of Wednesday morning: “Thunderstorms likely. Potential for severe thunderstorms. High around 75F. Winds SSE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%.”

2025 Indy 500 Qualifying pit Kyle Larson
IndyCar/Justin Walsh

Would Hendrick pull Larson out of the Indy 500 and insist that he head to Charlotte? “It would be very hard,” Hendrick admitted. “It would be very tough. It would be very disappointing because of all the effort that everyone has put in.” Not to mention the fact that Hendrick is flying in a huge number of guests—five airplanes’ worth, he said.

“It’s going to be pressure all day,” Hendrick said. “How does the race go? Is it going to rain? What time do we have to leave to get back to Charlotte? This is going to be a tremendous amount of pressure, but we signed up for it.”

The one thing Hendrick and Brown are not worrying about is Larson. “He’s just a die-hard racer,” Hendrick said. “He’ll race in this race just like he would when he flies somewhere and gets in a sprint car or a midget. He just wants to get in the car and race. I think all the racing he’s done has kind of built his confidence so much that he believes in himself and he believes in the team and what the team tells him the car will do, and then he figures it out on his own, and he’s off to the races.”


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    Sato qualified 10th while all the other RLL entries made it by a bch .Like last year, except Rahal , who didn’t. Odd and you have to wonder . I’m not opposed to mentioning Nascar if it will help Indy Car…to a point. _ ‘Lets go to Jeff Burton, Jeff’ ….’Nascar been.. berry berry.. good to me…. Indy Car?…Jeff no know Indy Car…. Kyle Larson, Jeff know Kyle Larson’. Nascar been…berry berry good to Kyle Larson”. _ ‘ Thanks for that insight Jeff. Take it away Steve.’

    I’m not a modern-day NASCAR fan, so I’ve not really followed Kyle Larson, but I do know about some of those other racers who did-the-double, and they were not just run-of-the-mill drivers. Gordon and Stewart were amongst the best, Busch and Andretti were also darned good, and if Larson is running in that pack, he’s obviously the real deal. Qualifying fifth in your first IndyCar ride is damn impressive. It’ll be interesting to see how it all goes down.

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