Kyle Larson

A date has been set for Kyle Larson’s first opportunity to drive an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car as he prepares for his first Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge next May, and he has been fitted for a seat.

The most versatile driver in North American motorsports even knows what his No. 17 Chevrolet will look like when he officially suits up with Arrow McLaren at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Between now and when his engine gets fired, Larson must manage his anticipation, including his nerves, because soon both will be churning as hard as that powerplant.

“Obviously, I’m extremely excited, but at the same time I’m so busy racing and trying to take care of my family that it really hasn’t set in yet, that it’s truly a reality,” Larson said last weekend during the Brickyard Weekend at IMS. “When you have days like (Sunday), when you unveil the car (and) all those little steps, it definitely makes it seem more real.

“But I’m sure once things slow down in the offseason and I have a lot of time to sit around and think about the upcoming season, it’s really going to hit. I’m sure that’s when all the nervousness will start to creep in.”

Larson’s first laps will be during the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ fall test, scheduled for the second week of October at IMS. The 31-year-old California native has that date on his calendar, a session that falls between the NASCAR Cup Series’ road race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 8) and the oval race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 15).

That test and the chance to complete the required Rookie Orientation Program already have Larson’s attention.

“I am nervous when I do think about that,” he said. “But I think once I get in the car, a lot of those nerves will hopefully go away after a few laps and it will feel like home, just like all the other race cars I drive.”

Larson’s list of career accomplishments is long, and the 2021 Cup Series champion won the prestigious Knoxville Nationals sprint car race for the second time in three years last weekend. He also was a member of Chip Ganassi Racing’s winning Rolex 24 At Daytona prototype in 2015, and he is considered the best open-wheel dirt driver in the business.

Larson will be the third true NASCAR driver to experience Indy in the past decade, following Kurt Busch in 2014 and Jimmie Johnson in 2022. All three have won Cup Series championships.

Busch also participated in the “double” in 2014, driving the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day. Larson is attempting to become the fifth driver to pull off the feat, which is being called the “Hendrick 1100” this time.

Larson will have 2013 “500” winner and one-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Tony Kanaan on site to assist him, and they already have a working relationship having been teammates for that Rolex 24 victory. Larson recently had a seat fit at Arrow McLaren’s Indianapolis shop, and it mirrored Kanaan’s from this year’s race as they’re about the same size. The fitting went so well that Larson was left with additional hours in his schedule, which never seems to happen, he said.

“I thought it would be a full-day process, and it was like an hour,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Really, we’re done?’ So, it’s just stuff like that. I know it’s going to get way more in depth as we get more into it.”

Larson said he benefited from visiting IMS during May to experience some of the traditional “500” activities, including the first day of practice and race morning. He sat on the pit box while the cars of Arrow McLaren drivers Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi were running to hear some of the radio communication, which he said is different than what he hears in NASCAR.

“Just getting eyes on stuff a year in advance will hopefully make things a little less overwhelming for next year,” Larson said. “So, I thought that was really important to come to a practice day and also get to come to the race for a little while, just to get reminded of how crazy this place becomes with all the people and all the ceremonies and all that. It will hopefully knock some of the edge off next year.”

While Larson won’t drive on the IMS oval until October, he has already received a sampling of what an NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver experiences in a car. Rosenqvist was in Charlotte last month to use Chevrolet’s simulator at the General Motors’ Charlotte Technical Center, which is located adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports’ NASCAR headquarters, and Larson was asked to join him.

The preparation that day was for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but Larson still found it beneficial. Mostly, he realized how much about this side of the sport he still must learn.

“When I first got in (the simulator), I thought I would be out of control and go in the grass, all this stuff,” he said. “I was like, ‘OK, I feel like I’m doing all right, like I felt like I got into a rhythm.”

Larson later learned he wasn’t in the rhythm of the regulars.

“The engineers and (others) were staying pretty quiet,” he said. “They would chime in like: ‘Hey, you know, everything looks good. Just keep working on your braking zones and stuff.’ Then, ‘OK, more brake pressure,’ or whatever. ‘Go a little deeper. Yep, that’s a little better.’ And I’m like, ‘How much more do I need?’ They were like, ‘Well, you need about a thousand more pounds of brake pressure,’ and I’m like, ‘What?!?!’

“So, the max brake pressure there is like 2,800 pounds – that’s insane. I’ve never pushed anything that hard. Like, for instance, (on the IMS road course) into Turn 1 we’d be like 800 pounds of brake pressure (in a Cup Series car), max. So, trying to get your brain wrapped around slamming the pedal that hard and releasing it that quickly but also maintaining some (speed) was just super difficult for me. I couldn’t ever figure it out. I felt like I regressed once I got closer to the max brake pressure stuff.”

Fortunately for Larson, his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race will be on an oval.

“It was just eye-opening to see data, right?” Larson said. “Like, I’ve always heard about the downforce cars and braking and all that, but I’ve never seen the telemetry of what (NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers) are doing behind the wheel. So, that was definitely interesting. To see how consistent they can be while pushing that hard was pretty wild, definitely eye-opening.”

Regardless of how the No. 17 car fares in next year’s “500,” both sides how they gain from the experience.

“We’re taking this one step at a time, and it’s just fun talking to (other) racers and talking about what makes a difference in what they do (in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES) and they’ll see what we’re doing (in NASCAR),” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said. “So, the communication is really good. We’ll come away from this (and) all of us will be better off.”

Said Larson: “No matter the result from this whole experience, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver. I already have, I think, just in the short amount of time I spent in the simulator.”

The 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will be Sunday, May 26. Tickets are available at