Meet Kyle Larson: The non-F1 driver you must watch as he attempts insane historic double

Elizabeth Blackstock
Kyle Larson waits for the start of practice for the Indianapolis 500

Kyle Larson is out to complete a rare feat at the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600

The field for the 2024 Indianapolis 500 is stacked: It includes eight former 500 winners, three former Formula 1 drivers, one Australian Supercars icon, and one endurance racing legend.

But there’s one specific driver you need to keep an eye on: Kyle Larson.

Kyle Larson: From NASCAR to the Indy 500 and back again

Rookie Kyle Larson will be competing in the Indy 500 for the very first time this year, but when he climbs out of his Arrow McLaren Chevrolet after taking the checkered flag, he’s not relaxing; instead, he’s jetting off to Charlotte, North Carolina to take part in NASCAR’s annual Coca-Cola 600.

Larson isn’t the first driver to attempt competing in those events back-to-back, but the Cup Series driver’s all-around skill behind the wheel means he’s perfectly poised to be the best to ever do it.

Who Is Kyle Larson?

Kyle Miyata Larson is currently a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver competing behind the wheel of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, but he boasts an impressive set of career stats that have distinguished him from the rest.

He was the first-ever graduate from NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which was designed to provide support for minority drivers progressing through the stock car ranks. He’s also racked up an impressive amount of open-wheel experience in the form of sprint and midget cars.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Larson; his career nearly came to an end in 2020, when he was suspended from both Chip Ganassi Racing and NASCAR for using a racial slur during an iRacing sim event.

He lost lucrative sponsorships and became something of a pariah until, late in 2020, it became clear he had done ample amounts of work to educate himself.

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Larson not only completed mandatory sensitivity training, but he visited Minnesota after the murder of George Floyd, attended countless classes to learn more about Black communities, and further dedicated himself to providing opportunities for underprivileged communities to see the value of STEM education.

In 2021, NASCAR announced that it would allow Larson to return to competition, having seen his efforts at educating himself and making meaningful change as being more than sufficient.

He joined the Hendrick Motorsports team and took his first victory of the year in Las Vegas before switching on a streak of dominance that saw him collect 10 wins in 36 races, as well as the Cup Series Championship.

And that’s not even counting Larson’s other racing activities in 2021. Larson contested 97 different events that year, including 60 dirt-track races, and maintained a 34 per cent win rate. He has regularly crushed his own career records with Hendrick.

What makes Kyle Larson so good?

Kyle Larson has been held up as a generational talent, and there’s good reason for it.

He has shown that he can compete against the best drivers in countless disciplines, and he’s made an art of going fast and pushing his equipment to the ragged edge.

While he is prone to making the occasional mistake in high-pressure situations, Larson’s version of a “bad day” would still be a career-defining performance for much of his competition.

He’s proven his skill on everything from short dirt ovals to winding road courses, he knows how to turn mediocre equipment into something stunning, and he’s a quick learner when he climbs behind the wheel of something new.

What is ‘The Double’?

“The Double” is the name given to the act of competing in both of America’s major Memorial Day races back to back: the Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. It’s considered one of the most challenging undertakings in motorsport, both physically and mentally, and has only been attempted a handful of times by a handful of drivers.

The first to do it was John Andretti back in 1994, followed by Kurt Busch, Robby Gordon, and Tony Stewart.

The only driver to successfully complete all 1,100 miles of racing was Stewart back in 2001, when he finished sixth in the Indy 500 with Chip Ganassi Racing and third in the Coke 600 with Joe Gibbs Racing; every other driver has failed to finish all laps of both events.

Kyle Larson will be the first driver to attempt “Double Duty” in 10 years.

What Does Kyle Larson’s Double Weekend Look Like?

As you can imagine, competing in two massive events back-to-back requires a lot of preparation.

He did skip NASCAR’s All-Star race weekend in favor of qualifying but when it comes to Memorial Day weekend itself, Larson will be busy:

  • Friday, May 24: Carb Day practice for the Indy 500
  • Saturday, May 25: Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600
  • Sunday, May 26: Indy 500, followed by the Coca-Cola 600

Larson’s participation in both events requires that there are no changes to a tight race-day schedule due to things like weather or red flags.

Larson has admitted that he intends to compete in the Coke 600, so if he must leave the Indy 500 early, he will.

However, if all goes to plan, Larson will jet off immediately after stepping from his Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, ideally after completing all 200 laps.

Yes, even if he wins; the post-race celebrations will have to be cut short!

What Are Kyle Larson’s Double Odds?

We won’t know where Kyle Larson will start the Coca-Cola 600 until he qualifies for the race on Saturday, May 25, but there are plenty of other variables here that can help determine his success.

First, Larson is starting the Indy 500 from fifth position, or the middle of the second row.

While the front-row starters historically have the greatest likelihood of converting their starting position into a race win, the second row is still a damn good place to take the green flag.

Seven different drivers have managed to convert their fifth-place start into a victory, which is a great sign for Larson.

Only nine drivers have taken a 500 victory in their first 500 start, but many of those who have – Graham Hill, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Hélio Castroneves – were either extremely skilled icons before their Indy 500 debut, or they would go on to develop extremely diverse skill sets after their victory.

Larson is hailed as a driver who can wheel just about anything. In 2021, he took the NASCAR Cup Series title. He’s won the Coca-Cola 600 before.

He’s a two-time winner of the Knoxville Nationals, a Rolex 24 winner, a Chili Bowl winner, and he’s currently NASCAR’s Cup Series points leader. It’s clear that he has the diverse skills necessary to achieve this feat.

But Kyle Larson has one extra trick up his sleeve: No other driver in the history of the Double has had an IndyCar/NASCAR double-header day before Memorial Day weekend.

On Sunday, May 19, Larson became the first driver to do so after qualifying for the Indy 500 before hopping on a plane and jetting off to North Wilkesboro to take part in NASCAR’s All-Star race. Larson qualified fifth for the Indianapolis 500; at North Wilkesboro, he had to start from the rear of the field and still proceeded to battle his way up to a fourth-place finish.

Most importantly, though, Larson gained valuable knowledge about his race day travel plans.

He’s had a trial run. He knows what it’s like to leave the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by helicopter.

He knows what it’s like to swap onto the plane that will take him to North Carolina.

He knows how to leave that plane and helicopter to the race track.

He knows what it’s like to turn laps at two different tracks on the same day. That may not guarantee him a win, but it’ll certainly set him up for success on May 26, 2024.

As far as NASCAR goes, Larson will not qualify for the Coca-Cola 600 until Saturday, May 25, so his starting position is still unknown.

But considering that Larson is the current NASCAR Cup Series points leader after two victories this season, it’s safe to say he’ll be ready to perform at his peak.

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