NASCAR Cup Series
Kyle Larson details Indianapolis 500 prep: 'There's a ton left to learn'
NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson details Indianapolis 500 prep: 'There's a ton left to learn'

Published Apr. 18, 2024 12:36 p.m. ET

A month from today, Kyle Larson will attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

Most feel he will have no problem qualifying for one of the 33 spots in the field (there are expected to be 34 or 35 entries). And while just qualifying for the race is far from the goal, it would be another huge step as he tries to add to his racing status as one of the sport's greats.

After completing a rookie orientation program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last fall, testing at Phoenix Raceway in February and then posting the second-fastest speed in the open Indy 500 test last week, is Larson ready for his IndyCar Series debut in what many consider the biggest motorsports event in the world?

"I don't think that I could take the green flag tomorrow and feel like I'm ready after running 40ish laps the other day — so, no, I still feel like there's a ton left to learn," Larson said last week at Texas Motor Speedway. "Although I learned some [at the test], I don't know how it's going to represent itself to racing conditions."


The 2021 Cup champion indicated he didn't do anything stout to post a fast time other than use the draft from running behind another car to gain speed in his Arrow McLaren car. The effort — he will compete in the Indy 500 and then fly to the NASCAR Cup Series marathon Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in hopes of completing 1,100 miles on May 26th — is being supported by his Hendrick Motorsports stock-car team.

Known as one of the most versatile and talented race-car drivers, the 31-year-old Larson seems to be keeping everything in perspective as he hopes to be competitive in the Indy 500.

"I'm not taking too much from the [testing] day, but it was good to get out there and see what an IndyCar looked like from behind and see what an IndyCar coming in my mirror looks like," Larson said.

"And [it was good] feeling a little bit of dirty air, coming down pit lane with cars on pit lane and people on pit lane — that was more good than just driving the car. It's all the other little details that I just need to get the hang of before I think I'm really comfortable. And I don't know if I'll ever feel like I'm really comfortable before we get to the race."

Kyle Larson on what he learned at the Indy 500 open test and whether he now feels ready for the race

Larson has good reason to feel that way.

"In practice, I personally didn't see the aero situations and the traffic situations that came up during the race," said seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who ran the Indy 500 in 2021 and 2022. "And that is where I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked."

There have been four drivers who have run both the Indy 500 and Coke 600 on the same day — John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. Only Stewart has completed all 1,100 miles in one day.

Larson's lap speed at the test was 226 mph, and last year the pole speed was 234 mph. The last time NASCAR had qualifying in a Cup race on the IMS oval, the pole speed was 185 mph (in 2019).

"I know I'm going faster than a stock car or sprint car, but when you match it with the level of grip that you have, it doesn't feel 30-mile-an-hour faster or whatever," Larson said.

"Just the level of grip ... and the level of downforce, not that it makes it feel slow because it's not — it's super fast — but it doesn't feel way faster than a stock car."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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