Kyle Larson’s Indianapolis 500 debut is continuing to take shape with Arrow McLaren.
The 2021 NASCAR Cup champion completed his latest test run with the Chevy-powered team on Monday at Phoenix International Raceway where the No. 17 McLaren-Hendrick entry was in action and turned 172 laps in the process on the 1.0-mile oval.
“It was great to be able to test again,” Larson said after having his outing at PIR moved up by one day due to oncoming weather. “Kinda like The Clash this past weekend for NASCAR, I was not expecting to race then and I wasn’t expecting when I woke up yesterday that I was going to be running an Indy car, so I had to get my mind right to prepare myself for that. But overall, I was pleased to get to test in great conditions with weather yesterday.”
Unlike his rookie test at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Larson got a feel for the Dallara-Chevy on the shorter PIR oval without an excessive amount of downforce piled onto the car where he caught at least one slide.
“Yesterday was probably more uncomfortable just because it’s a smaller track and things are happening quicker and you’re having to lift off the throttle a little bit,” he said. “At Indy, once we got through the different stages, we’re wide open pretty easy. So yesterday was fun to have to work on the timing of the corner and work through some balance things.
“The balance was definitely not perfect, which was good to feel. It was good to run through some things, get to some pit stop stuff. And yeah, I got loose at one point and almost spun out so that was good to feel the limit there at slower speeds.”
Arrow McLaren has also solidified more of the team that will oversee Larson’s No. 17 Chevy during his quest to win the ‘Hendrick 1100’ double with the May 26 Indy 500 and the 600-mile NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway later that day.
A key appointment has been finalized in the hiring of IndyCar race engineering veteran Mike Pawlowski who will begin working with Larson at his next test and remain in the role through the race. With engineering stints at teams racing from A.J. Foyt Racing to Andretti Global to Players Forsythe Racing, Pawlowski brings exceptional experience to the McLaren-Hendrick effort.
Another significant assignment on Larson’s timing stand is Hendrick’s Brian Campe, who will make his return to IndyCar as the ‘car communicator’ with the No. 17 entry and speak with the 31-year-old Californian throughout the event as the main voice in Larson’s ear from pit lane.
In Campe, Larson has a fellow NASCAR specialist who transitioned to IndyCar from stock car racing and went back after capturing two of the sport’s biggest crowns. From his time with Team Penske, Campe won the 2015 Indy 500 with Juan Montoya and steered Josef Newgarden to his first IndyCar championship in 2017 before returning to NASCAR, which fits nicely with Larson’s goal of heading back to NASCAR with IndyCar’s greatest spoils in hand.
“I didn’t know his path to where he’s at right now until we went to Indy last year during the month of May just to hang out for one day,” he said. “I knew that he won the Indy 500 and then when we walked in there, all these race fans and mechanics were coming up to him and I was like, ‘Man this guy’s like a celebrity around here,’ and so that that was really eye opening to me and from then, I really just asked him some questions on the flight home of like, ‘I didn’t know this about you,’ and then he went through his career path and I thought it was very unique.
“Before I knew all this, I was like, ‘Man this Brian Campe guy, I can tell he’s super smart,’ just throughout our competition meetings and stuff like that so once we got to Indy, it all made sense. You want all the best people in your corner and he’s definitely a really smart guy.”