Fox NASCAR Insider
Kyle Larson is mostly a calm, flowing race car driver.
But last week, he made two of the biggest statements in motorsports.
Biggest: Announced January 12th He would race in the 2024 Indianapolis 500Larsson will finally get the chance to prove he is one of the most versatile drivers in the world.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver will attempt a 1,100-mile race in one day, competing in the world’s largest race and then the traditional 600-mile NASCAR Cup event in Charlotte. Team Hendrick and IndyCar Arrow McLaren will make Larson’s IndyCar debut.
It didn’t happen without some pressure from Larson to team owners Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon.
“The first time I mentioned the 500 to Rick was at the end of 2021 and it seemed to have some momentum for the first couple of months, then things calmed down and I had to bring it back to Geoff for a little bit,” Larson said.
The deal came within a few months to settle the details.
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Hendrik said Larsson’s perseverance helped convince him to take the chance. Hendrick had a habit of discouraging his drivers from competing in open-wheel vehicles, especially IndyCar and race cars, as he was worried they might get injured.
“It’s one of those deals that Kyle was adamant about,” Hendrick said. And he persuaded me to let him run the sprint cars.
“The Indy 500 is such a prestigious event… It will be so special to be able to go out on the grid next year and be a part of it.”
Having 16 months to prepare would be very useful, Larson said, though he’s not sure he might be able to test for IndyCar. He doesn’t have any set races, although that might be possible depending on schedules.
“It’s a race I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a kid,” said Larson. “I’m glad I’m going to wait over a year because I can really focus on the preparation it will take to get there and hopefully be ready to make a good challenge when I win.”
Larson said it took some time to find a team that could commit to 2024 that could put them in a position to run well.
“They’ve been working hard here for a while to determine the best chance to come out and compete for wins,” said Larson.
“It took a lot of patience to get to this moment, and it will take even more patience to get to 2024. But I think we’ve put together the best possible scenario for all of us involved to have a good run.”
McLaren competes in several series, including Formula 1.
“I get more excited about it every day,” Hendrik said. “I wasn’t very excited about it at first and when we started talking about it… being partners with McLaren gives us a huge amount of comfort.”
But victory? Could Larson actually win the Indy 500?
“Obviously coming in to run my first IndyCar race in the Indy 500, it’s going to be a daunting task to ask to win,” Larson said. “But I think that’s why we try to plan so far in advance to be ready for that.
“and we hope [I can] Add my name to the list of winners and add to the wonderful legacy I hope to continue my career. “
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Besides the Indy 500 announcement, Larson also made a statement by skipping the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. It’s an event that Larsson has forever tried to win, describing his 2020 win as the biggest of his career and following it up next year by claiming the winner’s trophy again.
Instead, Larson chose to race a late model in Nevada, trying to draw attention to the fact that Chili Bowl paid the winner a $10,000 base purse.
“This past week has been fun,” said Larson. “I managed to run six supermodel races of late and won every one of them a bit.
“But I had a blast. I finished second three times. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
And he swears he didn’t miss the Chili Bowl, an event that attracts over 300 participants, bringing many top midget drivers (plus other forms of racing) to Tulsa for a week where the intense competition is only rivaled by the social aspect of parties and get-togethers.
“I didn’t have any FOMO,” Larson said of the fear of missing out. “I was waiting for it. Every day as the week went by, I’d say, ‘Well, is today the day I’m going to get scared?'” “
“I was surprised I didn’t. I really enjoyed watching. I watched a lot of the Chili Bowl. It was fun watching Logan Seavey win this race and he and Tanner [Thorson] and cannon [McIntosh] He fought a big fight. So I didn’t miss her all of a sudden. I thought I would.”
There was some criticism of Larson losing it and being forthright about the wallet, but Larson shrugged it off.
“It is what it is,” said Larson. “I’m honestly annoyed to talk about it.”
Larsson will now try to focus on 2023. He won the 2021 Cup title in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports but was knocked out after the second round of qualifying last year.
“It’s always disappointing when you come out of a playoff run, and you know your championship season is over,” said Larson. “Hopefully this year I’ll clean up some things and actually be in contention for the championship at the end of the year.”
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Thinking out loud
NASCAR will award medals to the top three finishers in a preseason struggle as part of having an event at an Olympic venue such as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
It will be interesting to see the reaction of the second and third place drivers. Other forms of motorsport celebrate the top three leaders by placing all of them on the podium after a race.
NASCAR (and American IndyCar) did not highlight the top three podium finishes, choosing to focus on the winner in victory lane.
The argument on the podium is that the winners should be honored. The argument against the podium is that those in second and third place feel like the first losers.
I don’t see this as a step towards a podium finish in NASCAR, just a way to bring some Olympic and world class flair to an exhibition event.
They said so
“It was a great time to transition with businesses, careers, and different things off the racetrack. Ultimately, I needed a little more flexibility in terms of where our family was.” – Kevin Harvick upon his retirement.
Bob Pokeras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene, and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobocrassand subscribe to FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pokras.
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