NASCAR star Kyle Larson takes green flag for Indy 500 debut after rain washes out 'The Double'

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kyle Larson fulfilled a long-time ambition by taking the green flag in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, even if the NASCAR star's hopes of pulling off one of the rarest feats in motorsports was washed out by rain at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Larson was attempting to become the fifth driver to do “The Double" by running the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte the same day. But when a severe storm brought pre-race festivities to a halt, and pushed back the start of the Indy 500 by four hours, Larson was left to choose between the IndyCar race and the NASCAR race.

He wound up staying at the Indy 500, where a throng of people enveloped his No. 17 entry from Arrow McLaren and Hendrick Motorsports when it was pushed onto the starting grid about an hour before the race began.

Justin Allgaier was standing by to start the Cup Series race in the No. 5 car. But even though there was no way to complete all 1,100 miles, Larson still planned to fly to Charlotte and take over whenever his day was done at the Indy 500.

“It looks like it’s going to be that window where I guess we might be able to get it dry to race today,” Larson said earlier in the day, “but obviously that affects things for the 600. It’s still the weather. You don’t know how that is going to go exactly. But the worst-case scenario is happening, which is a bummer. We’ll get on the track in something today.”

Larson had hoped it would rain enough to force the Indy 500 to run Monday, allowing him to start both races.

“It would be very tough,” admitted Rick Hendrick, his NASCAR team owner, when asked about pulling Larson from the Indy 500 earlier in the week should rain affect their plans. “We’ve got a tremendous amount of folks there at Indy, and he’s in such a good position. It would be extremely hard.”

The storm that swept quickly through Sunday wasn't the first to disrupt Larson's plans. He had several days of practice washed out — partially or entirely — earlier in the month, limiting the amount of time he was able to spend in the car.

Hendrick was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway along with Jeff Gordon, the vice chair of Hendrick Motorsports, to watch the start of the race. They were among the hundreds who gathered around the No. 17 car when it was pushed onto the grid.

Larson had been planning to follow the blueprint used by others doing “The Double:” He would finish the Indy 500, take a helicopter to a nearby airfield, board a private jet to Charlotte, then climb into another helicopter for the last hop to Charlotte Motor Speedway. If the Indy 500 began on time, he would have just enough time to make it for the start.

“I've been around Kyle a little bit through my career. He's a remarkable driver,” NASCAR driver Noah Gragson said, “and to be able to see one of our guys who we’ve raced with every weekend go and try a different discipline of motorsports is really cool."

NASCAR driver Chase Briscoe said he was excited to see Larson in the Indy 500 because of their shared background.

“I'm excited from the NASCAR side, but I'm more excited from the sprint car side, to see another sprint car guy go to the Indianapolis 500,” Briscoe said. “It's kind of the origins of Indy. You had these sprint car guys who would go and run — you had A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Jack Hewitt, Bryan Clauson recently — and that was always the thing. If you were the best sprint car guy, you wanted to run the Indy 500. That was the dream. So it’s cool from that standpoint.”

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

05/26/2024 20:50 -0400

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