Kyle Larson’s whirlwind day begins in Indy, ends in North Carolina


NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Kyle Larson is such a talented race-car driver, for a racing accomplishment to rank as special has to truly be something extraordinary.

The NASCAR Cup Series points leader did just that, turning the fastest qualifying lap ever by a rookie in Indianapolis 500 history Saturday with a speed of 233.453 mph and the second-fastest ever four-lap qualifying average by a rookie at 232.846 (Tony Stewart, as a rookie, posted a 233.100 in 1996) Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After qualifying fifth for his first IndyCar race — and the biggest race in the world — he then flew to North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he finished fourth in the NASCAR All-Star Race.

Larson had never experienced Indianapolis 500 qualifying, which consists of two days if a driver is among the top-12 in the first day.

“To be lined up on the second row of the Indianapolis 500 is pretty crazy,” Larson said. “I just can’t believe it, really. I thought if we could make the Fast 12, that would be exceeding expectations.

“To qualify as well as we did yesterday [to make the top-12] and then get into the Fast Six today was unbelievable. Happy with how it’s gone so far there, and now I look forward to hopefully get better in race trim.”

At Indianapolis, the 31-year-old Larson is driving for Arrow McLaren as part of a partnership with Hendrick Motorsports. He will likely do something more special next Sunday in competing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.

“It’s been comfortable every time I’ve hit the track, so that that helps you relieve pressure knowing that you’re in a fast car,” Larson said. “I’ve just really tried to enjoy the experience, enjoy the moment.”

NASCAR All-Star Race: Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and others walk out before big event

Assuming nothing crazy happens between now and Sunday, Larson will become the fifth driver to start both races on the same day.

Larson’s scramble Sunday was his first weekend of hectic travel. He will do it again next weekend. He will attend the Indy 500 parade Saturday before heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Cup practice and qualifying, which starts at 5:05 p.m. ET.

He will then return to Indianapolis, where the Indy 500 will go green at 12:45 p.m. ET. The race takes about three hours, and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte green flag is typically 6:15-6:20 p.m. ET. If everything goes as scheduled, Larson should arrive in Charlotte with about a half-hour to spare. 

“I’m not stressed out about logistics at all,” Larson said. “I feel like I had a good plan. I feel like I’m just: Tell me where to be, tell me which car we’re getting in, and we’ll go.”

The 2021 Cup champion, Larson is known as one of the most versatile race-car drivers as his roots in sprint car racing helped him achieve multiple major-race victories. But he also has branched out into dirt late models and now has his biggest challenge with the Indianapolis 500.

“Everything in Indy has been really, really special,” Larson said.

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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