Larson on his incredible Indy/NASCAR double attempt: 'My brain wasn't ready!'

Indycar Racing News

Kyle Larson will attempt 'The Double' in 2024, racing IndyCar's Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on the same day – here's what's he's said about his rollercoaster journey so far

Kyle Larson McLaren 2024 Indianapolis 500

Larson has made it into the 500 in some style for his much-anticipated 'Double' attempt


Doing ‘The Double’ – racing the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR longest event, the Coca-Cola 600, on the same day – is one of motor sport’s greatest tests.

200 laps of the Brickyard against 32 other fearsome IndyCar competitors would seem enough of a challenge on its own, but in this instance it’s followed by a dash to a private jet – while being overseen by a medical team – before doing it all again with 40 other hardened NASCAR battlers at one of the discipline’s most formidable circuits: Charlotte in North Carolina.

Racers like Tony Stewart, John Andretti and Kurt Busch have given it their best shot, but for ten years no-one has taken on this incredible challenge of both body and mind – until this weekend. Stock-car star and NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson is putting himself forward for ‘Double Duty’ on Sunday at the wheel of a McLaren IndyCar, followed by his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in NASCAR, and his efforts so far have been nothing short of heroic as he drives faster than he’s ever gone before.

7 Kyle Larson McLaren 2024 Indianapolis 500

Larson has had relatively little testing time in the run of to this year’s 500


The 25-time Cup race winner will start fifth at ‘The Brickyard’ ahead of Indy 500 victors and IndyCar champions, despite having minimal experience in these type of single seaters. He’s taken part in only two short test days, followed by practice and qualifying sessions marred by bad weather and reliability issues.

So far, this racing hero looks to have made short work of the challenge — he’s no stranger to mixed disciplines. Along with his NASCAR commitments, he often races sprint and dirt cars and you’d be hard-pressed to find a weekend where Larson isn’t racing in some form of motor sport.

It made him a natural candidate to take on the intimidating Double prospect, but it’s also the kind of all-action stunt encouraged by McLaren since its take over by marketing guru Zak Brown, who famously supported a brilliant Fernando Alonso Indy 500 effort in 2017.

“Kyle Larson is one of those rare drivers and champions that can race anything,” Brown declared.

“He reminds me of drivers like Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti who could drive anything on wheels as fast as anyone. To have him join us for the Indy 500 is extremely exciting.”

6 Kyle Larson McLaren 2024 Indianapolis 500

Larson found Indy speed a shock at first


Larson himself was game for the task too.

“Competing in the Indianapolis 500 is a dream of mine and something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time since I was a child, before I ever began competing in sprint cars,” he said.

“To do it with Arrow McLaren and Mr Hendrick, especially, is a dream come true. Maybe get a win or two that day.”

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The entry was announced in January 2023 for this year’s race. Joining the effort as a driver coach would be McLaren’s sporting director and former 500 champion Tony Kanaan, while Hendrick race engineer Brian Campe – who oversaw Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2015 Brickyard win – would be joining to bridge the IndyCar/NASCAR divide. Also helping out would be Hendrick co-owner Jeff Gordon, a NASCAR legend who, with five wins at The Brickyard 400 stock car event, is the most successful non-IndyCar competitor at the famous circuit.

After undergoing sim work in between his NASCAR commitments, the California native had his first IndyCar test at the end of that year when he completed his Rookie Orientation laps at the Indianapolis Speedway – hitting a 217mph average as he lapped the oval.

“It was fun,” he said coolly afterwards. “It was mostly what I anticipated, in a way. The speed and the grip didn’t feel, thankfully, scarier than what I thought it might.

“Just how much the car wants to pull left and you have to kind of fight it back to the right on the straightaways and all that was something I didn’t expect. The weight of the wheel was a lot lighter than the simulator, but it was still a little heavier than what I expected. Other than that, I think it went really smooth.”

3 Kyle Larson McLaren 2024 Indianapolis 500

Larson gets used to warp speed at The Brickyard


From there he would run the car at Arizona, a one-mile, low-banked circuit more useful for Larson to get used to the team rather than any meaningful comparison to Indianapolis.

However, Larson had his first few close calls with the wall – reminding himself on what a razor’s edge an IndyCar runs.

“I had a few moments where I was uncomfortable,” he admitted. “I thought that was good to feel at 190mph — 180 maybe in the corner — compared to going 220 at Indy and having a moment and being surprised by something.

“You’re just going a lot faster in an IndyCar [than a NASCAR], so the moments happened a little bit quicker. The edge of good versus not good feels a little sharper.”

Once the calendar moved into 2024, the Indianapolis 500 would start to get a whole lot more real for Larson for good and bad.

The 500-preceding official open test would be his first chance to measure himself up to bonafide IndyCar stars. The NASCAR driver acquitted himself well – and then some.

In the opening two hours, Larson was second fastest with a time of 226.384mph – second only behind last year’s 500 winner Josef Newgarden.

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Though he achieved this time with the aid of another car’s slipstream – giving big gains at Indy – it was still impressive for someone fairly unfamiliar with arguably the world’s most intimidating race track.

“They sent me out for a couple of runs by myself just to get acclimatised, which was good because it felt very fast that first run – my brain wasn’t quite ready for that!” he told Conor Daly’s SpeedStreet podcast.

From there he’d have to get used to running with the pack too – and understanding how his car behaves when dicing in the field.

“It’s valuable because you are not going to spend the whole race in the lead,” Larson commented on running in the draft of other cars. “For a guy like me, I’ll probably spend 99% of my race in traffic. I’m just trying to get familiar with that and learn the balance. I was surprised with the first bit of traffic we got in; the balance felt normal, but later on that same set of tyres, I was getting tighter and tighter [more understeer] after making some ins and outs.

“It was good to experience what that felt like. The packs I’ve been in have only had two or three cars, but it’ll be different when the field is out there. I’ve just got to keep getting laps and as the packs keep getting bigger, I’ll learn a lot more.”

2 Kyle Larson McLaren 2024 Indianapolis 500

Rain hampered running for Larson


Rain would curtail much more meaningful running, and inclement weather would mean the same for much of the opening days of official practice for the 500 – once the sun did come out though, Larson’s McLaren needed an engine change while all the other cars got to play.

“Everyone’s been running a lot of laps except me – it’s been a bit boring and frustrating,” he commented.

The drama would ramp up more from there. Larson would eventually get some mileage, and before long the first qualifying session – a gargantuan eight-hour affair – was underway.

With cars at times hitting 240mph on the straights in qualifying set-up, this would be the fastest Larson had ever been in an racing car – but trouble would hit again, forcing him to abandon the first run.

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“There’s some alarm that popped up on the engine, cut a bunch of power,” he said. “I don’t know what happened. We didn’t make it off Turn 2. I haven’t talked to anybody, so I don’t know what happened. But that sucks. I don’t really know how our run was looking, but the car felt pretty balanced.”

It turned out just to be an electrical issue though, and just after the four-hour mark, Larson would clock a 232.562mph average speed – guaranteeing him a place both in the race and the ‘Fast 12’ qualifying shootout.

Did Kanaan or Gordon ever doubt it? “Calling me a ‘coach’ is an overstatement, Kyle is making me look good!” laughed Kanaan.

“My heart-rate was going a little there – we didn’t intend the drama!” added Gordon to NBC. “I am living vicariously through Kyle – what race driver wouldn’t want to compete at the Indy 500!”

5 Kyle Larson McLaren 2024 Indianapolis 500

Final qualifying attempt brought unprecedented success


Come the Fast 12 knockout round, Larson would do even better, putting himself into the final ‘Fast Six’ session, eventually qualifying an incredible fifth, in the middle of the second row.

He’ll be flanked on the starting grid by 2016 winner and McLaren team-mate Alexander Rossi on his left and speedway firebrand Santino Ferrucci, a driver who has never finished outside the top 10 at The Brickyard in five attempts, on his right. The front-row has been swept by Penske: Scott McLaughlin set a scorching record pole time of 234.220mph, just ahead of former 500 champ Will Power and last year’s winner Josef Newgarden.

“Unbelievable – it’s just a lot better than I ever anticipated,” said Larson to Flo Racing. “I’m happy not having to run another qualifying lap! Just the nerves, going out, get more and more every time.”

10 Kyle Larson McLaren 2024 Indianapolis 500

Larson flies in to North Wilkesboro after qualifying fifth at Indy – all in a day’s work

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The Hendrick driver then completed an unofficial first Indy/NASCAR ‘Double’ after qualifying last weekend. Immediately after setting his top five 500 time, he flew to North Wilkesboro for the Cup series ‘All-Star’ race – and finished fourth!

The stage is now set for an incredible spectacle for the 2024 Indianapolis, with Larson the centre of attention.

Regardless of how it goes, would he be open to coming back and giving another whirl in the future?

“I just kind of want to see how this experience goes first,” he told “If I enjoy it, and if it doesn’t scare the shit out of me, then maybe I would like to do it again.”