Kyle Larson 'Didn't Really Enjoy' Disappointing Rained-Out Double Race Day

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Larson 'Didn't Really Enjoy' Double Race DayIcon Sportswire - Getty Images

Drivers have been attempting to race in both NASCAR's 600-mile May classic and the Indianapolis 500 since 1963, but the challenge became much more difficult when a federally standardized Memorial Day moved the two races to the same day from 1974 on. Kyle Larson became just the sixth driver to attempt the feat on Sunday, but a rain delay at one race and a rainout in the other meant that he would finish only at Indianapolis and would not reach Charlotte in time to run his second scheduled race.

It was a unique disappointment, one made worse by the outcome of Larson's 500. The NASCAR star, racing for Arrow McLaren as part of a unique partnership with his NASCAR team Hendrick Motorsports, had qualified well in fifth and had impressed by climbing back up to seventh after an early restart mistake dropped him out of the top ten. He looked set for a solid finish and maybe even a shot to fight amongst the leaders for a race win in the day's final stint, but Larson sped on pit entry during the day's first cycle of green flag stops. That dropped him to the back of the lead lap, ending any shot at contending to win the race.

Larson finished 18th, six positions behind top-finishing rookie Christian Rasmussen. His performance in qualifying and before the speeding penalty was enough to earn him Rookie of the Year honors in the formal vote, but it was a disappointing debut for a driver who has won at every other level of oval racing and briefly looked capable of winning here, too. He got straight on a helicopter out of the track and arrived in Charlotte with impressive speed, but he was already four hours late because of an earlier rain delay in Indianapolis. The race was already well underway.


Assigned NASCAR relief driver Justin Allgaier ran an impressive race on short notice to keep Larson's No. 5 Hendrick entry on the lead lap, and with Larson arriving just before an expected brief rain delay with 150 laps to go, there was a real chance that the NASCAR star could have won his other race of the day anyway. That chance evaporated when rainwater did not, and NASCAR opted to call the race due to slow track drying early in the night rather than wait until 1 a.m. for a possible restart. Larson never got to run a lap in his second race.

It is a new low for a driver attempting the double. Although Larson was not the first driver to miss the start of the 600 due to rain, he was the first to miss the 600 entirely because of a delay. The 2021 Cup Series champion came into the race weekend with the best shot of winning both races that any competitor attempting the feat has since Tony Stewart last tried it in 2001. Stewart became the only driver to ever finish all 1100 miles in the same day that year, securing sixth in Indianapolis and third in Charlotte. Larson had to settle for 18th in the 500 and a DNS in the 600.

NASCAR's unique rules about playoff eligibility, which require that a driver receive a waiver if they do not attempt to start every race of a season, add an additional complication to the matter. In theory, the series could have chosen to enforce the rule and end Larson's championship hopes right now. In practice, the series is not so vindictive, and current NASCAR leadership even seems supportive of the category's starts trying to race in other disciplines. Larson is expected to receive a waiver and should be able to hold onto his current position of third in the series championship.

In a statement on social media, Larson apologized to stakeholders in both racing teams and said that he "felt like [he] let so many people down." He added that the experience "up until Sunday" was "one of the greatest of his life." In an interview with NBC before Monday's Indianapolis 500 banquet, he added that "race day just sucked" because of the two factors and that he "didn't really enjoy any of it."

Larson noted in both the statement and the interview that he hopes to try the double again someday. He and his NASCAR team Hendrick Motorsports initially signed a two-year deal with the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team, so if plans do not change and weather cooperates, Larson will get his shot to run the world's biggest and world's longest major oval races in the same day soon enough.

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