Top Priority For Larson Shifts To Indianapolis 500

Larson

Kyle Larson will remain at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday's Indianapolis 500. (Paul Hurley/Penske Entertainment photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Despite lightning and a torrential storm system that drenched Indianapolis Motor Speedway just before the scheduled start of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, Kyle Larson stood in the infield smiling.

Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion who is attempting the Greatest Spectacle in Racing for the first time, has been the subject of uncertainty all week as the anticipated rains moved closer and closer to the Indianapolis area.

The 31-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif., has been preparing to be the sixth driver to attempt Double Duty by competing in both the 108th Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.

At the beginning of the month, Hendrick Motorsports officials indicated that the ‘600’ – the final major race of Memorial Day weekend – was the main focus for Larson, the current Cup Series point leader who is an early favorite to contend for his second championship later this season.

That narrative shifted late Sunday morning, when Larson joined the Indianapolis 500 pre-race show and told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider he anticipated staying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the event that the ‘500’ can get underway after the early rain delay.

“It’s not just my decision; it’s everybody within Hendrick [Motorsports] … from [team owner] Rick Hendrick to [sponsor] Hendrick Automotive Group,” Larson explained. “I think we’re all a part of that decision. [Vice Chairman] Jeff Gordon and [general manager] Jeff Andrews have input as well.

“There’s just been so much time invested in making this Indy 500 happen; it’s been building up for more than a year,” he added. “We need to run it, and I want to because I feel like I have a really good shot to run well and potentially win.”

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Larson’s original schedule called for him to take a 4:15 p.m. ET helicopter ride from IMS to Indianapolis Int’l Airport, and then fly by private jet to Concord (N.C.) Regional Airport before hopping another helicopter out to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the longest race of the Cup Series season.

With the weather delay persisting, that plan appears to be scuttled, leaving Larson’s only hope of contesting both races being if the Indy 500 ultimately gets pushed to Monday.

JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier, a two-time Coca-Cola 600 starter in 2014 and 2015 and perennial contender in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, is on standby if Larson does not arrive in time for the ‘600’.

“I just wish it would all work out, and we could get both races [to go] the full distance,” Larson noted. “I don’t care if it’s on the same day. I just want to be able to race all of both races. But we’ll see.”

Larson was celebrated as the American Dairy Ass’n of Indiana Fastest Rookie Award winner on Tuesday, after his four-lap qualifying average of 232.846 mph. He was the only first-timer to make the Firestone Fast Six and is scheduled to roll off fifth in the No. 17 Arrow McLaren/HendrickCars.com Chevrolet.

It’s a Month of May he said that he won’t soon forget, regardless of how the racing situation ultimately plays out.

“The experience has been amazing to this point,” Larson noted. “It’s really good. It’s the coolest experience [in racing] I think I’ve ever had at this point. Other than having children, which is an awesome experience, this is right up at the top.

“As far as I’m concerned, anything is fun and incredible. I’ve enjoyed every second of this and I hope to do more in the future so I can keep enjoying this place. … There’s nothing that comes close to it.”

IMS President Doug Boles said mid-afternoon that he was told Larson would be staying to run the ‘500’.

As of 2:30 p.m. ET, the rain had let up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the race remained in a holding pattern at 3:15 p.m. ET.

Track officials announced at that time that a green-flag time of 4:44 p.m. ET was being targeted to begin the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Coverage will air on NBC, Peacock, and the IndyCar Radio Network.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.