Kyle Larson’s 1st Indy 500 qualifying run waved off but advances; NASCAR race later Sunday

INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Larson followed a successful Fast Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a concerning start to the first day of qualifications.

Larson — who was sixth in the qualifying order — was on the backstretch of his fourth and final qualification lap when he pulled his No. 17 Arrow McLaren Racing Chevrolet into the deceleration lane and drove into pit lane with his four-lap, 10-mile qualification attempt unfinished.

Larson’s car had a small plenum fire. His team wanted him to complete the run, but a miscommunication led to Larson aborting the final lap.

“If I had known what to do in that circumstance, I could’ve just lifted and went back to it and completed a below-average run,” Larson later said.

Instead, Larson waited nearly three hours for another qualification attempt. He completed his redo with an average speed of 232.563 mph, good for the sixth-best speed on Saturday. The run places Larson in the Fast 12 with a chance to pole Sunday. Larson returned for a third attempt, but it was aborted after a lap at 233.439 mph, so he kept his second attempt.

While Larson’s initial run didn’t go as planned, it allowed him to be more free during his second attempt.

“Just being more comfortable hitting buttons and watching for shift lines and things like that,” Larson said of the difference in his first and second attempts. “Where the first run — I felt like I executed it good too — I was just more having to think about it and really pay attention more. So it just became a little bit more natural.”

After posting the second-fastest single lap Friday, Larson is continuing to show his prowess despite his limited IndyCar experience. The 2021 NASCAR Cup champion is still adjusting to the differences between IndyCar and NASCAR, although he enjoyed the setup of Saturday’s qualifications.

“To this point, it’s been a really fun experience,” Larson said. “I’ve never gotten to compete in a qualifying day like this. It’s honestly pretty relaxing, doing it like this. … I feel like when you can do multiple runs, it just calms the nerves — for me anyways.”

One of the main differences Larson is adapting to is the turbocharger boost of 100 extra horsepower in Indy 500 qualifications. For many drivers going from NASCAR to IndyCar, that difference in speed can be difficult to get used to.

Larson — who’s repeatedly praised the balance of his car — hasn’t felt the impact of the difference. The additional boost was “less stressful” for Larson after practicing with it on Friday.

“When you have the grip there, it doesn’t feel like you’re going 20 miles an hour faster,” Larson claimed. “That’s what’s been the weirdest thing for me to try to get used to. I’ll make a run that doesn’t really feel that fast, then I come in and our number’s towards the top.”

Larson heads into Sunday as one of the twelve drivers with a chance to earn the pole position for the Indy 500 on May 26. But Larson won’t just be competing with the other 11 drivers, he’ll be competing with time.

Larson is scheduled to race in the NASCAR All-Star Race at 8 p.m. ET Sunday. The race is at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Wilkesboro, N.C. The Fast 12 portion of qualifications is scheduled from 3:05 to 4:05 p.m. Larson will race with the Fast 12, but if he qualifies fast enough for the Fast Six, it will be what he called “decision-making time.”

Fast Six is set to be run from 5:25 to 5:55 p.m. As of Saturday, Larson is unsure what he’d do if he made it to the Fast Six. There’s a chance he could run in the Fast Six and still make it to North Wilkesboro for the NASCAR race. There have been thunderstorms throughout Saturday in North Wilkesboro with a chance for rain Sunday, which could postpone the race to Monday. If Larson forgoes the Fast Six, he will be slotted in the sixth spot for the Indy 500.

Kevin Harvick — who retired at the end of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season — practiced and qualified in Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the NASCAR All-Star Race while Larson was in Indianapolis doing the same for the Indy 500. The winner of the 200-mile All-Star Race gets a $1 million prize. It is a non-championship NASCAR Cup Series stock car exhibition.

On May 26, Larson — who’s in his 12th year in the NASCAR Cup Series — will attempt to become the fifth driver to complete ‘The Double’ of racing in the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Larson currently sits first in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series standings thanks to wins at the Pennzoil 400 on March 3 and AdventHealth 400 on May 5.

Larson’s amid a hectic month. He’s balancing participating in his first Indy 500 with his NASCAR schedule. So far, the dual responsibilities haven’t negatively affected Larson’s performance. He continues to impress at IMS with a chance to do more on Sunday.

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