NASCAR Cup Series
Kyle Larson Has Approval to Seek Indianapolis 500 Opportunity
Oct 9, 2022
Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, is renowned generational driving talent. That raw talent has enabled him to seamlessly transition between stock cars, dirt cars, and now IndyCars. On Thursday, Larson was given the opportunity to log his first laps in an IndyCar around the legendary 2.5-mile circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on what was a clear, and beautiful sunny day.
Larson was in command of the No. 17 Arrow-McLaren race car, featuring the striking orange and blue colors with primary sponsor HendrickCars.com. Larson's goal for the day was to participate in the NTT IndyCar Series Indianapolis Motor Speedway Rookie Orientation Program.
Upon completion of three phases of speed requirements, Larson would be granted approval to attempt to qualify for the 2024 Indianapolis 500.
Shortly before 1:20 PM Eastern Time, Larson received the official confirmation from IndyCar race control that he had successfully completed the Rookie Orientation Program. The exhilarating moment was captured in a video shared by Nathan Brown of the Indy Star, as the radio crackled with the announcement, "Car 17 has successfully completed the Rookie Orientation Program."
Larson had a blast in his first time behind the wheel of an IndyCar, but does say that things were a little different from the simulator session.
"It was fun, I guess mostly what I had anticipated in a way. The speed and the grip didn't feel, thankfully, scarier than I thought it might. But there was -- like just how much the car pulls left, and you have to fight it to the right down the straightaways," Larson explained. "All of that was something I didn't expect. The weight of the wheel was a lot lighter than the simulator, but still maybe a little heavier than I expected. Other than that, I think it went smooth."
Tony Kanaan, former Indy 500 champion and current Arrow McLaren Sporting Director, says that he was impressed with Larson in his first stint behind the wheel of an IndyCar.
"It makes my life easier when you have a superstar," Kanaan stated. "It makes me look good. But yeah, I woke up this morning and I was a little nervous, and I don't know why. There's no reason for me to be. But awesome day. The thing is, Kyle and I were teammates back in the day, we won the 24 Hours of Daytona together, so we knew each other. We fit in each other's seat. It was seamless. We did what we were supposed to do today.
For Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick, it was the culmination of a dream.
"It's -- I guess it was kind of a dream, and something we were going to do. Today, you just kind of officially pulled the trigger," Hendrick said following the day's session.
Jeff Gordon, who spent his entire Hall of Fame NASCAR Cup Series career with Hendrick Motorsports, and now serves as an integral figure within the organization, says he is living his dream vicariously through Larson.
"Hard not to really get excited for this opportunity for Kyle, and somewhere deep inside, wished that I had gotten an opportunity," Gordon said, "But I am absolutely having a blast watching Kyle going through this process, and seeing Rick here in Indianapolis and being part of an IndyCar going around and being an owner and sponsor in this event, it'll be his first time witnessing this event at the same time."
It was first announced that Larson would be attempting The Double back on January 12th. The motorsport world eagerly awaited this historic endeavor. On August 13th, at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Larson's vibrant HendrickCars.com paint schemes for both vehicles he would employ in his quest for The Hendrick 1100 were unveiled, setting the stage for an unforgettable racing spectacle.
Throughout the day, Larson completed an impressive total of 67 laps around the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His best lap speed reached an average speed of 217.898 mph.
To pass phase one of the orientation, Larson had to complete a set of 10 laps, each falling within the 205-to-210 mph speed range. In phase two of rookie orientation, he had to tackle 15 laps within the 210-to-215 mph range. The final phase of orientation demanded 15 laps at speeds exceeding 215 mph.
With unwavering determination and skill, Larson conquered all three phases that Thursday afternoon. In doing so, he had earned the privilege to attempt to compete in the 2024 Indianapolis 500, an event known for its history and grandeur. Larson's goal was to join the elite group of drivers who had successfully achieved the Indianapolis 500 / Coca-Cola 600 double, a feat that had not been accomplished since Kurt Busch's remarkable achievement in 2014.
It was first announced that Larson would be attempting The Double back on January 12th, and on August 13th, at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Larson's vibrant HendrickCars.com paint schemes for both vehicles he would employ in his quest for The Double were unveiled, setting the stage for his attempt at the Memorial Day Weekend Double.
Photo Credit: Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski