Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson drove a race car Friday the fastest in his illustrious career. He was second fastest overall on “Fast Friday” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a top speed of 234.271 mph in the No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

Larson’s dad, Mike Larson, said “it’s surreal” watching his son compete on the 2.5-mile IMS oval in preparation for the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

“The first memory I have is Parnelli Jones in 1963,” Mike Larson said of the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner. “Just listening on the radio at home with my dad. What attracted me to him was who else was named Parnelli? So, I just connected with him because of his name, and he became my favorite.”

Mike said his dad instilled in him that this is “the greatest race in the world,” and Mike realized early how important this place and this race is. He passed down that passion to Kyle.

“Just when he was a little kid, come May we were going to focus on the Indy 500, and he did, too,” Mike said.

The 2012 race sticks out to father and son as a recent fond memory of the Indianapolis 500. Mike said Kyle raced at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in the “Night Before The 500,” and the two drove to Ohio the next day so Kyle could compete in a sprint car event. Just the general memory of huddling around a phone in the car, watching the exhilarating late-race battle between Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato with his son still brings a smile to Mike’s face.

“I remember it being a Ganassi car spinning,” Kyle Larson said of his recollection of that day. “I'm half-Japanese, so I remember cheering for Sato in that moment and was a little bit bummed that he didn't win.

“I do remember watching it, thinking Sato was crazy. That was fun.”

Larson said it was a somewhat awkward moment that he was a Chip Ganassi Racing developmental driver – Franchitti drove for CGR in 2012 – at that time but rooting for Sato, who drove that year for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Now, there’s no question who is receiving the full support of the Larson family.

Larson will attempt to qualify on PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying this weekend, drawing the sixth spot Saturday to speed out of pit lane and complete a four-lap run.

Mike will have a watchful eye on Kyle on track and hopes to share another family memory with his wife, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and grandkids. He said he’s happy 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle decided to give the “500” a try, and 2024 is the perfect time for this moment to happen.

Mike told Kyle’s oldest son, 9-year-old Owen, on Friday that he will see the biggest crowd in the world next Sunday. Owen’s eyes lit up with excitement.

That’s what Indy means …

Rosenqvist, O’Ward Like ‘100 Days’ Episodes

Ahead of Friday night’s fourth episode of the second season of The CW’s ‘100 Days to Indy’ documentary, some of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers talked about their experiences of being featured in past episodes.

The second episode featured Meyer Shank Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist as he tried to conquer The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge.

Rosenqvist’s busy schedule permitted him to finally watch the episode for the first time earlier this week. He liked what he saw.

“I think they do a good job like portraying personalities and kind of behind the scenes,” he said. “I wish there was a little bit more, but it's always hard to fit in with everyone's schedule and race week. It's so tight. Now it's cool whenever you can kind of get a glimpse into someone's everyday life. I think people like to see that.”

The episode also featured his fiancé, Emille Sutt. This was the first time he got to see her emotions while he’s racing.

“I think for everyone watching, it's just nerve-wracking,” he said. “Same for me like if I watch a friend racing, and I'm not racing myself: It’s really hard. I thought she was a pro. She did great.”

Rosenqvist’s former teammate with Arrow McLaren, Pato O’Ward, feels the same when watching the episodes about his family’s anxiety during his races.

“I saw the episode last year here for this race and my sister's reaction,” O’Ward said. “I didn't know she reacted like that until I saw it. I was like, ‘Dang!’

“It is a human sport. We're not robots.”

Marco Andretti Grateful for New Personnel

Marco Andretti’s 19th attempt to reach victory lane in the Indianapolis 500 has two key new crew members contributing to his No. 98 MAPEI/Curb Honda for Andretti Global w/Marco & Curb-Agajanian.

Craig Hampson has returned to the organization and is on Andretti’s pit stand. Hampson spent four seaons as race engineer for Andretti Global (2013-16). He joined Dale Coyne Racing from 2017-19 and then Arrow McLaren from 2020-23.

Despite seven years apart, Andretti said he and Hampson are working together like they never separated. The information has been seamless, and he already feels positive effects.

Hampson spearheaded the idea of bringing aboard another vital person to the team – former INDYCAR SERIES driver Robert Wickens.

“It was Craig’s idea, and then I kind of made it happen in the team,” Andretti said. “(Wickens) is extremely critical. He’s so good at reading data and basically extracting the most out of every little detail that we need. That’s what this track has come down to because everybody’s so good. He works so hard, and I think hopefully the others learn by his example. He is the last one to leave the garage.”

Third-generation driver Andretti hopes Hampson and Wickens can catapult him back to contention the “500.” Andretti has eight top-10 finishes, including an exhilarating, yet dejecting runner-up finish as a rookie in 2006 when Sam Hornish Jr. got a good run off Turn 4 approaching the checkered flag and passed Andretti only a few hundred feet from the finish line, winning by .635 of a second, the third-closest finish in “500’ history.

Andretti said the last three years he knew his car wasn’t capable of delivering a “500” victory but with this new personnel surrounding him, the morale is high within the team.

Odds and Ends

  • Several members of the 2024 Indianapolis Colts rookie class were spotted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday. They were in the Chip Ganassi Racing garage from 10:30-11 a.m. for a meet-and-greet. Rookies Micah Abraham, Tanor Bortolini, Jaylon Carlies, Matt Goncalves, Anthony Gould, Jonah Laulu, Jaylin Simpson, Jason Bean, Trent Pennix, Spencer Shrader, Kedon Slovis, Dalton Tucker, Xavier White and Craig Young were in attendance. Simpson waved the green flag to start practice.
  • On Friday morning, Team Penske unveiled the red replica fire suit that driver Scott McLaughlin will wear for the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500. It matches the suit worn by four-time “500” winner Rick Mears when he earned his second Indy win in a yellow Pennzoil car – like McLaughlin’s this year – in 1984.
  • The first caution of the day wasn’t for moisture but rather a … snake? Alexander Rossi said he ran over what he thought was a driveshaft, sparking a yellow for debris on Turn 1. He told Peacock in an interview that it turned out he ran over a snake. Between “Georgina” the mannequin falling from a bridge to the track at Barber Motorsports Park under race conditions April 28 to wildlife Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has provided some interesting moments this season.
  • Will Power and Josef Newgarden spent several laps during Thursday’s practice session working with one another around the 2.5-mile track. Visually, it appeared the Team Penske teammates were testing how to make a pass for the win, exchanging the lead car every lap. “Well, that’s exactly what we were doing,” Power said. “Ultimately, if you think you're going to be fighting for a win, I suppose you got to do that a few times like at the front just to see how's it going to play out.”
  • Larson was told by Associated Press motorsports reporter Jenna Fryer that he must milk a cow next week as part of the American Dairy Association’s Rookie Celebration. “What? Is that a thing?” Larson said. “Where is this?” He said he will oblige but got a good laugh at the upcoming task.