“That Would Really Hurt”: Kyle Larson Divulges His First Indy Ride as He Hits Unprecedented Speed, Baffling $2.8-Billion Sponsor

Published 10/13/2023, 2:31 PM EDT

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Only Kyle Larson can do the unthinkable. Hendrick Motorsports‘ #5 driver won a sprint car series in Indiana before preparing for the playoff race in Vegas. In between, he also managed to make a pit stop at the Brickyard for his Indy 500 Rookie Orientation.

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Believing it to be a dream come true, Larson passed the three-phase test for the Indy 500 next year. His celebrated sponsors listened to him awestruck as the Hendrick driver detailed his fiery experience.

Kyle Larson crossed the speeds at Daytona International Speedway in his first stint at IndyCar racing

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In the past, Kyle Larson has recorded three Top 10 and even a Top 5 finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But that was stock car racing. Driving an IndyCar becomes an entirely different ball game as Larson quickly realized when he had to practice pushing an IndyCar with a 2800-pound brake limit as opposed to the usual stock cars that sufficed with around 800 pounds of pressure. And then there was the extraordinary speed.

The rookie test required speeds ranging from 205 mph to over 215 mph. With 500 miles at the Brickyard and 600 miles at the Coca-Cola 600, Larson would race for 1100 miles at breakneck speed in May next year. The ace driver passed all three phases with flying colors, registering his fastest lap at 217.898 mph. For the Hendrick1100, Kyle Larson drove the #17 Chevrolet for 72 laps in a heady mixture of exhilaration and fear.

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Elaborating in the clip shared by Fox journalist Bob Pockrass, Larson recalled,I remember testing in Michigan, maybe in an ARCA car, right after they re-paved it a few years back when ARCA had big horsepower and stuff. I think we went 220-something into Turn 1 at Michigan. I think we’re about that today in Indy car.” 

He further compared, “Both times it didn’t feel like, 220 on paper is like crazy fast and obviously it is, but going out there by yourself and this track is so smooth, it doesn’t feel like you’re going 220. Or it doesn’t feel any different than going 195 at Daytona or something.” But even the wheelman feared for his safety when he processed the scale of the damage at that speed. Larson confessed, I did look at the wall one time thinking, ‘Man, that would really hurt’ if I hit it. So things are obviously happening quickly.”

Watch this story: Kyle Larson’s New Challenge: From NASCAR to IndyCar

Of course, Larson could only accomplish this with the support of team owner Rick Hendrick and their billion-dollar Indy 500 sponsor McLaren Racing.

McLaren Racing teamed up with Hendrick Motorsports because of “superstar” Larson

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Arrow McLaren’s sporting director and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan was assigned the crucial role of overseeing Kyle Larson’s preparation for the IndyCar race. Impressed with Larson’s passion and versatility, Kanaan could not imagine a better candidate to partner with on this challenging expedition.

When enquired about Larson’s performance at the post-orientation press conference, Kanaan replied, “I mean, it makes my life easier when you have a superstar, so it makes me look good.” Having won the 24-Hour Daytona with Kyle Larson in 2015, Kanaan could not stop raving about his former teammate.

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Representing McLaren, Tony Kanaan continued, “I don’t think Kyle Larson needs an evaluation as an IndyCar driver. He’s a complete driver. Out of his generation, it’s the best I’ve seen.” Waiting in anticipation of his double duty next year, Kyle Larson’s fans couldn’t agree more.

Kyle Larson Claims Yet Another Championship Win Amidst His Worsening Playoff Misery

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Written by:

Parika Singh

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Parika Singh is a NASCAR Author at EssentiallySports. Her combined love for writing and motorsports drew her to the world of sports journalism, where she fell in love with the thrill, unpredictability, and charisma of covering racers and race tracks. Her stories have the right blend of research and storytelling that really make her stand out as a Motorsports Journalist.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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