Weather Puts Kyle Larson's Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 Double Plans in Jeopardy

indianapolis, in during indianapolis 500 practice in indianapolis, indiana photo by james black ims photo
Weather Puts Kyle Larson Double Plans in JeopardyPenske Entertainment/James Black
  • Sunday’s weather forecast for the Indianapolis 500 in central Indiana is dire.

  • There is an 80% chance of rain. Even more troubling, the forecast lists thunderstorms as likely, with the potential for severe thunderstorms, both during the day and in the evening.

  • The weather could create a very disappointing scenario for one of racing’s greatest drivers who hopes to test his skills in two of the biggest races in the world.

As far back as last year, as Hendrick Motorsports, Arrow McLaren, Chevrolet and Kyle Larson began putting together a complex plan to have Larson race in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day, there was one element they could not control.


The weather.

And, as matters have developed, that is the one element that everyone involved in this intricate and tangled endeavor are facing head-on as the big Memorial Day weekend approaches.

Sunday’s weather forecast in central Indiana is dire. And that could be an understatement. There is an 80% chance of rain. Even more troubling, the forecast lists thunderstorms as likely, with the potential for severe thunderstorms, both during the day and in the evening. Not encouraging for two race teams who hope to accomplish one of motorsports’ most difficult doubles, and potentially very disappointing for one of racing’s greatest drivers who hopes to test his skills in the biggest race in the world.

kyle larson nascar indy 500
Kyle Larson has his eyes on the prize at Indianapolis.Penske Entertainment/Titus Slaughter

Numerous scenarios could play out Sunday. Ideally for Larson, the forecasts will be wrong, the Indy 500 will start on time (12:45 p.m. ET), he’ll finish the race and fly out to Concord, North Carolina and Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday night’s 600. The Sunday forecast for Concord includes the possibility of isolated thunderstorms but only a 30% chance of rain.

If the start of the 500 is delayed by rain to later Sunday afternoon, team owner Rick Hendrick and his executives face some tough decisions.

• Is giving Larson a shot at competing in the Indy 500 more important than driving in the 600?

• Can Hendrick toss out all of the preparations and expense that have been involved in putting Larson in the 500 lineup to leave Indianapolis to make the Charlotte start?

• And what happens with the No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, sitting in the No. 5 starting spot for the 500, if Larson departs for Charlotte?

There are no easy answers.

The name of retired driver Tony Kanaan, who has been Larson’s advisor and coach throughout the preparations for Indy, was floated as a possible replacement for Larson in the 500, but that idea was swept away with word that he will retain the advisor role Sunday. Additionally, there are complications with requirements that drivers participating in the race have had time on the track.

Apparently the only driver who could replace Larson if he and the team decide to abandon his effort is Nolan Siegel, a rookie who was the only driver bumped from the 500 field.

If the 500 is postponed to Monday and Larson competes Sunday night at Charlotte, he would return to Indy for the rescheduled race.

There is an argument to be made that NASCAR would benefit more, from a global and general perspective, having Larson run in the 500 even if it means that he misses the race in Charlotte.

Asked Thursday if he would stay in Indy and drop the 600 if the 500 starts late Sunday afternoon, Larson said that matter will be decided only if factors force it.

“I think that's all kind of game-time decisions and maybe decisions out of my control,” he said. “Yeah, I think the plan right now is hopefully everything just gets going as scheduled and we don't have to worry about that. Like I said earlier, I think it's just all kind of spur-of-the-moment decisions, and we'll see.

“It's stressful because weather is always unpredictable, but you just don't really know until it's like happening. So it's hard to plan for weather. You can have all these plans and backup plans and backup plans for the backup plan. But you just can't really do anything or react until it's kind of the moment.

“It doesn't look too promising for Indy on Sunday, but I think for me where I sit, if it's going to rain, I hope it rains all day. That way it can just get pushed to Monday or something, and then Charlotte is not going to rain, I just hope it doesn't rain, and we can get it (the Charlotte race) in on Sunday night and then come here Monday.”

Driver Santino Ferrucci, sitting beside Larson in a press conference, said “Call Tony Stewart.” “What did he do?” Larson said. “It rained, and he was leading and he said he would deal with the consequences. ‘It’s the Indy 500.’ Do you have a Coke 600 [win]?” “Yeah,” Larson said. “You’re good,” Ferrucci said. “Stay here. I like having you here.”

Larson described Indianapolis Motor Speedway as “like Disneyland or Disney World” of racetracks. “It is the nicest facility,” he said. “I think all of that makes it feel even bigger, too.”

Larson has at least one fan in the starting grid.

“I'm rooting for him because like why not? Make some history,” Ferrucci said.