NASCAR’s Kyle Larson Squeezes Indy Car Laps In Before Indy 500

Larson's car getting fueled up for some test laps at Phoenix Raceway. X/@KyleLarsonRacin

Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup champion, is one step closer to his IndyCar debut at the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500. Following his fifth-place finish at the Clash preseason NASCAR race Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum, he traveled to the Phoenix Raceway for an Indy car test on Monday.

Granted, the one-mile Phoenix oval is a far cry from the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Larson said in a Zoom call today with the media that he learned a lot from the test. “I had a few moments where I was uncomfortable. I thought that was good to feel that at 190 or whatever we’re going—180 maybe in the corner— compared to going 220 [mph] at Indy. Having the moment, being surprised by something, I think that was a benefit.”

He nearly lost the car once: “Got a little bit loose into the corner,” he said. “As I was leaving the bottom, it just started to get sideways. I was able to catch it.

“Honestly, though, nothing about yesterday felt way different than what a Cup car feels like. That was good for me. I think the characteristics of the Indy car versus the Cup car, at least at Phoenix, felt very similar. You’re just going a lot faster in an Indy car.

“The moments happen a lot quicker. The edge of ‘good’ versus ‘not good’ feels a lot sharper. Yeah, it didn’t feel way, way different than what I was used to. Even with those moments of getting sideways, it didn’t feel way different.”

On May 26, Larson is planning to do the “double,” shorthand for running both the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar race and the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup race, which are held on the same day. He will compete at both events for his NASCAR team owner, Hendrick Motorsports.

NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson, in the #5 Hendrick Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Doing the double is a physically and mentally demanding exercise, requiring the driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500, hurry to the airport, board a private jet for the Concord-Padgett Regional Airport in North Carolina, which is 430 miles away, then board a helicopter that lands at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The late John Andretti was the first driver to attempt the feat, on May 29, 1994. In 2001, Tony Stewart became the first and only driver to successfully complete all 1100 miles of both races, finishing sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte, despite complaining over the radio of an upset stomach. Besides Andretti and Stewart, only Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch have attempted the double. Busch was the last in 2014, where he finished sixth at Indy but dropped out of the Coca-Cola 600 with engine problems. He completed 906 total miles.

Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski

Dubbed the “Hendrick 1100” (t-shirts, hats, and model cars are already available at, Larson’s–sponsored Indy car, from the Arrow McLaren stable (with full-time drivers Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi, and David Malukas), was unveiled last August. In October, Larson passed his rookie orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His Indy car is powered by Chevrolet, like Larson’s NASCAR Cup car.

He’s unlikely to get another run in the open-wheel, Dallara-Chevrolet race car until open practice in April at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then in the practice sessions leading up to the Indianapolis 500. Besides lapping at Phoenix, when he went through five sets of tires, he practiced pit stops and making in-car adjustments that are possible in an Indy car but not in a NASCAR Cup car.

Larson thinks he got up to speed in the Indy car, but since he was out there by himself, he really isn’t sure. “I have yet to be on track with anybody else, so I don’t know,” Larson said. “I’m not able to compare to anybody else yet. I could have been half a second or more off the pace yesterday. I just have no clue. Once we get to the month of May or the open test in April, that’s when I’ll be able to kind of judge myself based off of the guys who do this for a living.”

Few doubt that Larson, arguably the most versatile driver in the Cup garage, will get up to speed or that he’ll get his share of attention. “I do know there’s a lot of race fans that are excited to see me out there. That makes me excited, as well. I feel like I’m a grassroots type of racer. Even though I race on Sunday in the Cup Series, I still feel like I resonate with the local short-track fans. I think that’s exciting. That’s what gets people liking me.

“I know I’ve got a lot of support on the fan side of things. I’m sure the whole NASCAR garage will be paying attention to how my couple weeks is going there.”

Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski

And as for the Daytona 500, on February 18: “Hendrick Motorsports is always really fast there. I know our race car is going to be good. It obviously takes some luck to get to the finish, but you also have to make good decisions and be prepared.

“Although on paper we’re literally like the worst team on superspeedways, I do believe that we are much, much better than what we show on paper. I feel like 90 percent of the time we’re in the top six or eight at the end of the race, the final 10 laps, then we get caught up in a crash, end up finishing 28th or worse.

“Eventually it’s got to work out. We keep putting ourselves in position. I’m confident that we can go out there and win or at least get a good finish and get off to a good start for the year. There’s a lot of factors that come into play at those superspeedway races. You have to cross your fingers that you can be in front of the pack and then you execute at the finish.”

Kyle Larson IndyCar testing cockpit
Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski




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    the real test will be traffic and air in traffic. If anymore can do it he can. He has a real touch to any car and picks them up fast. But in this one one mistake can be costly even to a veteran.

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