Roger Penske Reveals Rick Hendrick’s Indy Request That He Declined Due to Performance Concerns

Published 12/07/2023, 1:31 PM EST

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Kyle Larson running in the Indianapolis 500 race as part of an 1100-lap single-day effort, dubbed “Hendrick 1100,” has received a lot of media attention since it was announced. Hendrick Motorsports‘ #5 driver impressed everyone this season by making it to the Championship 4 with a strong and commendable run. Now he is ready to impress more by racing in the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500 on the same day in 2024. With Arrow McLaren supporting his efforts for the Indy race, he even completed his test run with ease.

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Preparations are already underway for the much-anticipated event, and IndyCar series owner Roger Penske has now revealed why he wasn’t able to field Kyle Larson as part of his team despite Rick Hendrick’s request to do so.

Roger Penske reveals why he had to decline the request of Rick Hendrick

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Rick Hendrick has been in the motorsports scene for as long as anybody can remember. Though he is one of the stalwarts of NASCAR and even helped the organization field an entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he hasn’t dipped his toe in the IndyCar Series until now. Kyle Larson’s entry will be the first in the history of Hendrick Motorsports. Being uncharted territory for him and his team, it makes sense why Mr Hendrick would have wanted Larson to drive for Team Penske .

Revealing to the media at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway about his anticipation for the Memorial Day Weekend over which the race is scheduled, Roger Penske talked about Mr Hendrick’s request and his reason for having to decline it. He said, “I know Rick talked to me about running Larson [for Team Penske] and I just … We hadn’t had success for a couple of years and I said, ‘Look for us to take on a fourth car on…,’ and then, of course, McLaren did, and we just applauded that all the way along.”

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Penske continued further to throw light on the potential for success that Larson has in the Midwest owing to his skills and fanbase in the region.

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The struggles of Team Penske that stopped Mr Penske despite friendship with Rick Hendrick

The respect that Roger Penske has for Rick Hendrick was evident during Kyle Larson’s test run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in October. Larson went to the track with an entourage that included Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon, and Mr Penske chose to honor the former with a special gesture. At his request, a large pylon at the speedway held a welcome note for Rick Hendrick and his team. Thanking Mr Penske for it, Mr Hendrick said, “I really want to thank Roger for the name on the pylon out there. I thought that was quite an honor. I was surprised to see that. He told me today the track was mine.”

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As Mr Penske stated, despite their bond, the reason that he couldn’t accommodate Larson in his team was the lack of success that Team Penske has had in recent times in the Indy Series. The last time a Team Penske driver won the Indy500 before Josef Newgarden in 2023 was Simon Pagenaud in 2019. While it would have been a heavenly sight to watch Kyle Larson drive the car of one of his team’s key competitors in NASCAR, Penske’s decision to not risk Larson’s chances held a higher ground.

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With his effort, Larson becomes the first driver since Kurt Busch in 2014 to attempt the two races on the same day. Five racers have gone to start their days with the hopes of completing all 1100 miles, but only Tony Stewart has done so in the past. Hopefully, Arrow McLaren will prove to be a worthy substitute for Team Penske and lead Larson to yet another record.

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Written by:

Gowtham Ramalingam

365Articles

One take at a time

Hello, there! Though my affinity for racing originally stemmed from the European circuits of Formula 1 as a teen, I unexpectedly found myself drawn to NASCAR's unparalleled excitement growing up. This sport took hold of me and never let go, leading me to a career as a NASCAR writer. Over the last few months, I?ve had the chance to share my insights and observations through a myriad of articles on EssentiallySports.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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