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via Getty

via Getty

“Is there anything this man can’t drive? was the comment made by a Kyle Larson fan, and rightly so. Larson is tackling double duty for the first time in his career and seems to have caught on quickly. Before the rain paused things, Scott Dixon was leading during a brief morning IndyCar practice for the Indianapolis 500. But for a while, Kyle Larson found himself at the top of the leaderboard, showing he’s more than just competitive.

Larson’s Papaya Blue car turned heads during the early practice session

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Scott Dixon, a six-time IndyCar champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner, topped the charts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, clocking a blazing 229.107 mph in the #9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Right on his heels was Marco Andretti, who kicked off strong, posting the second-fastest time in the #98 Andretti Herta Honda, just a hair slower by 0.121 seconds. 

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Not to mention, later on Wednesday, Scott McLaughlin led three Team Penske cars in the top four of the speed chart, with a best lap of 229.493 in the #3 Team Penske Chevy after another rain-interrupted day of practice for the 108th Indy 500. Yet, it was Hendrick Motorsports’ own Kyle Larson who grabbed the spotlight.

Though rain cut the session short, leaving Kyle Larson P27 on the leaderboard on Tuesday after just a couple of installation laps to familiarize himself with the pit lane systems in his #17 Arrow McLaren/Rick Hendrick Chevrolet, he had already made a statement. In his first lap out at the Indy 500 practice, Larson topped the speed chart among the first nine cars with a lap at 224.239 MPH. Watching him navigate through a busier track with 24 more cars could add an intriguing side to his debut run. On Wednesday, though, the 2021 Cup Series champion was P15 at 225.245.

Kyle Larson is already in the middle of his Indy 500 debut in a special collaboration between Arrow McLaren and Hendrick Motorsports, who are fielding a fourth car just for him. Unfortunately, his last practice before Tuesday didn’t go smoothly—he had a major wipeout, rolling his sprint car five times at Kokomo Speedway Monday night.

Despite the setback, Larson remained upbeat about his performance and the learning curve. He appreciates the early experience, saying, It’s definitely good. Even at this point, I’ve gotten more today than I thought I would. So just getting to leave the pit lane a couple of times, it was good; all that. As we get to tomorrow, we get like a clean day of running, I’ll be able to learn probably a lot. I would think so. Wish I would’ve got more laps there, but overall, I’m still just happy to be here and I think [IndyCar] said we have like 30-some more hours of practice, so hopefully that’s enough time for me.”

However, the only downside to this whole racing phenomenon is that, it seems, due to his commitments at the Indy 500, Larson will miss the NASCAR All-Star Race heat races at North Wilkesboro Speedway, as he’ll remain at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for qualifying on Saturday.

Rick Hendrick’s double-duty driver has pointed out that the schedule just doesn’t line up for him

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Heat races in North Carolina are set for 5:20 p.m. ET and 6:15 p.m. ET, while Indy 500 qualifying kicks off at noon ET on Saturday. Given that all 34 drivers usually wrap up their first four-lap run within a couple of hours, Larson might technically have time to make both events.

But Larson has reasons to stick around in Indy:

  • If he’s in contention to place his #17 Dallara-Chevrolet in the Fast 12, which competes for the pole position on Sunday afternoon
  • If he finds himself fighting in the last-chance qualifier among the bottom four drivers for a spot in the Indy 500.

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Larson clarified on Wednesday, The timing doesn’t work out. He added that if he qualifies anywhere from P13 to P30 on Saturday, he plans to head back to Charlotte that evening, then spend Sunday at North Wilkesboro, where he’s defending his All-Star Race title. 

But as a glimmer of hope, according to IndyCar court reporter, Nathan Brown, Hendrick believes Larson could potentially leave Indy as late as 6:20 p.m. ET Sunday to make it to the All-Star Race on time.