Kyle Larson Reveals His ‘Plan B’ for Indy-Charlotte Double

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Larson Reveals ‘Plan B’ for Indy-Charlotte DoubleJAMES J BLACK

In case there was ever any doubt, Hendrick Motorsports has made it abundantly clear that Kyle Larson’s top priority on Memorial Day weekend will be NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 over the Indianapolis 500.

The 2021 NASCAR champion hopes to qualify next weekend for the 500 and run to the finish on May 26. If the 500 starts shortly after noon and runs without serious interruptions, Larson will have no problem making it to Concord, N.C. for the 6:00 p.m. start of the NASCAR Cup Series race. Most travel estimates put the flight at 50 minutes to an hour.

But Larson confirmed Saturday that if rain delays the start or interrupts the Indy 500, he’ll leave the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to make it to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in time to start the 600, a race he won during his 10-victory, 2021 championship season.


“Hopefully, that (weather) situation doesn’t arise,” the Hendrick Motorsports star at Darlington Raceway, where he qualified sixth for this weekend’s Goodyear 400. “I’m not sure who’s the one to make that call. I’m sure there’s a window that when it gets to a certain point, I have to leave because the 600 is the priority and chasing another championship is the priority.

“I just hope that doesn’t come about. Tony Kanaan is there for reserve, if something like that does happen, to fill in for the (Indy) 500. But we’ll just pray that that doesn’t happen.”

(FYI: Larson appears to be mistaken about Kanaan’s role. A new rule prohibits relief drivers in IndyCar races. If Larson starts and leaves mid-race, he’ll be scored where he was running at the time. Kanaan can start the car, even if Larson qualifies it, but won’t be allowed to race it if Larson so much as rolls off the grid).

But if things go well, Larson will become just the fifth racer to compete in both races on the same day. The late John Andretti did it in 1997, then Tony Stewart in 1999 and 2001, Robby Gordon in 2002 and 2003, and Kurt Busch in 2014. Davy Jones planned on doing it in 1995 but didn’t qualify for the 600.

Weather was an issue for Gordon in three of his five tries at the double. When rain pushed the 1997 Indy 500 to a Tuesday, he flew to Charlotte for the 600.He ran the full Indy 500 in 2000 but didn’t get to Charlotte in time to start the 600. And after starting the 2004 Indy 500, he left for Charlotte during a rain delay that he incorrectly thought might delay the finish to Monday. After a lengthy delay, Jaques Lazier finished the 500 while Gordon was in the 600.

Larson seems to be taking the whole Indy-Charlotte doubleheader matter in stride. Even with two Cup races and the NASCAR All-Star exhibition before the Indy-Charlotte weekend, he took his wife and six-year-old daughter, Audrey, to Paris last week to see Taylor Swift in concert. (He’s not a “Swiftie,” but greatly admired how the extravagant, sold-out event ran without a hitch).

“I think I stay prepared for things like this because I race all the time,” said Larson, already a two-time winner this year. “These next two weeks, honestly, are simpler than most of my weeks. I’m in Indiana (next week) for a full week and I’m behind one certain type of car (his Hendrick McLaren Arrow) for the majority of that week.

“A lot of times my summer schedule will get crazy, where I’m racing on a Sunday and then flying to go race a Sprint Car one day. And then I’m driving three hours to go race a dirt Late Model and then something else that weekend. So, times like that probably prepare me for the month of May more than anything. I think having good people around you too; having good, organized logistics helps, as well.”