Another important step down, more to come in Kyle Larson’s Indianapolis 500 journey.
NASCAR Cup Series star Larson completed the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) on Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a significant milestone as he attempts to become just the fifth driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day. Larson’s “Hendrick 1100” – the moniker given to this “double” initiative – will take place Sunday, May 26, 2024.
“It was fun,” Larson said. “It was mostly what I anticipated, in a way. The speed and the grip didn’t feel, thankfully, scarier than what I thought it might.
“Just how much the car wants to pull left and you have to kind of fight it back to the right on the straightaways and all that was something I didn’t expect. The weight of the wheel was a lot lighter than the simulator, but it was still a little heavier than what I expected. Other than that, I think it went really smooth.”
Larson needed a little more than two hours to complete the three-phase speed test on the historic, 2.5-mile oval, which also were his first laps in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car. Drivers must start ROP with 10 laps between 205-210 mph, following with 15 laps at 210-215 and finishing with 15 laps faster than 215 mph.
His top lap was 217.898 in the Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet fielded by Arrow McLaren in a joint effort with Hendrick Motorsports, Larson’s NASCAR team and 10-time winners of the Brickyard 400 at IMS. Larson turned 72 laps, with his fastest coming on his 65th trip.
2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Larson joined NTT INDYCAR SERIES regulars Tom Blomqvist of Meyer Shank Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Marcus Armstrong and Linus Lundqvist in completing the traditional Indy 500 rookie test this week at IMS. Armstrong, Blomqvist and Lundqvist finished all three phases of ROP on Wednesday, with Blomqvist topping the speed chart at 220.176 in a Meyer Shank Racing Honda.
The presence of Larson at the test attracted plenty of stars in the North American motorsports galaxy to IMS on a sunny fall afternoon. Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and five-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon – now the vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports – observed the test, and Larson received plenty of advice from 2013 “500” winner Tony Kanaan, recently named Arrow McLaren sporting director.
“I’m certainly going to live vicariously through Kyle a bit through this experience and see how excited he is about it, and he clearly is,” said Gordon, who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana.
Said Kanaan: “It was seamless. We did what we were supposed to do today. Let’s come back here in April and get on.”
Larson’s next on-track step in this Indy 500 journey will be more laps in April during the Indianapolis 500 Open Test.
“It’s going to be really exciting next year when April and May come around because it’s going to be real then, race time, getting ready to race,” Larson said. “This is such a huge race for myself and my family, so I’m just glad I get to do it.”
2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Larson hopes to join John Andretti, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch in completing the “double.” 2004 Cup Series champion Busch was the last driver to successfully attempt the double, in 2014. Stewart produced the most successful double in 2001, when he finished sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES tested the 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine with hybrid technology Thursday at IMS, with Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing, Will Power of Team Penske, Colton Herta of Andretti Global and Alexander Rossi of Arrow McLaren turning laps.
Hybrid testing will continue from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. Friday, with David Malukas of Arrow McLaren and Marcus Ericsson of Andretti Global joining Palou and Power on track.
Fans can watch hybrid testing Friday from the grandstands inside the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 of the IMS oval, near the IMS Museum, and the spectator mounds inside Turn 2.
Visit IMS.com for more information and to buy tickets for the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and all Month of May activities at IMS.