Indy 500 qualifying: Kyle Larson locks into the field; Rinus Veekay recovers from early crash to get into top 12

Kyle Larson not only qualified for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, he’ll start in one of the first four rows.

Larson averaged 232.563 mph over his second four-lap run on Saturday, which was good for the sixth-fastest speed of the day and locks him into the top-12 shootout for pole position Sunday. Larson’s time was the fastest of the seven rookies looking to make the field and the second-fastest of the Arrow McLaren Chevrolet stable he’s driving for at Indy.

Will Power had the fastest average speed of the day at 233.758 mph. The 2018 Indy 500 champion holds the all-time IndyCar Series record for most poles (63), but has never started this race from first. Dutchman Rinus Veekay recovered from a crash on his first run early in the day to post a stunning 232.419 average speed on a dramatic final run as time expired in the session, which was 11th-fastest.

Starting positions 13-30 were locked in during Saturday’s six-hour session, with positions 31-33 and 1-12 determined Sunday. One driver will be bumped in from the field during Sunday’s last-chance qualifying round as there are 34 cars entered in the event this year. Either Graham Rahal, Pietro Fittipaldi, Katherine Legge or Nolan Siegel will be on the outside looking in come Sunday evening.

Kyle Larson’s four-lap average speed of 232.563 mph was the sixth-fastest during the first day of Indianapolis 500 qualifying. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Larson’s sixth-place run came after he aborted his first attempt after three laps, despite having an average that would have locked him into the field. He would take the track for a third run with about 90 minutes remaining in the session, but cut it short after one lap.

The NASCAR Cup Series mainstay and 2021 series champion is making his IndyCar debut in one of the most prestigious auto races in the world. Larson is attempting to become the fifth driver to compete in “The Double” — running the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 (in Charlotte, N.C.) on the same day.

The Indy 500 is scheduled to begin shortly after 12:30 p.m. on May 26, and typically takes just over three hours to complete; the Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled to start just after 6 p.m. ET. A commercial airliner can make the IND-to-CLT flight in an hour and 40 minutes but Larson will be in a private jet which can make the trek faster. Any significant weather delay in Indianapolis would result in Larson bailing for Charlotte to satisfy his NASCAR commitments, and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan would drive the No. 17 Arrow McLaren.

Then-NASCAR rookie John Andretti was the first to attempt “The Double” in 1994. Andretti finished 10th at Indy — right behind his very famous uncle Mario — and finished 220 of 400 laps at Charlotte before a mechanical failure ended his day in 36th place. Three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart attempted “The Double” twice and on that second occasion became the only driver to end both races on the lead lap — sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte a few hours later.

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