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USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

Kyle Larson attempting the ‘Double’ is the talk of the town. The #5 Chevy driver is attempting a feat only five have attempted before. And of them, only Tony Stewart was successful. Now attempting the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 is no easy feat. And to attempt 1100 miles in a single day- is a lot! And as expected many issues are coming along the way that could potentially hinder Larson’s attempt to make history.

For Larson, the primary obstacles are weather and time management, both co-related. And although there were plenty of rumors that Tony Kanaan would step in for Larson, it isn’t the case.

Why will Tony Kanaan not step in for Kyle Larson at Indy 500?

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From the moment Kyle Larson geared up to do the Double Duty, there have been speculations about his potential stand-in driver. Now Larson has been extremely vocal that for him, Charlotte is first, and then comes the Indy 500. The cup race remains a top priority because of NASCAR’s playoff rules, which require drivers to attempt every point race unless, of course, injured. Moreover, Larson has hit his playoff spot with two wins and leads the championship by 30 points—so his waiving Coca-Cola 600 is hugely unlikely.

Rick Hendrick also stated that it would be “very hard” to make a decision that prevents Kyle Larson from finishing the Indy 500. He said, It will be very tough, very disappointing because of all the effort that everyone’s put in from Arrow McLaren to our marketing people. We got a tremendous amount of folks there at Indy, and he’s in such a good position, it would be extremely hard.” 

 

Hence, the speculations and talks about an Indy 500 replacement started making the rounds very early on. Although Tony Kanaan was said to have been the first choice, he is not taking Kyle Larson’s seat after all and instead will be in the timing stand offering strategic support to Larson. This decision wasn’t abrupt but after a thoughtful session of the Arrow Mclaren team deliberating over the new rules.

So as per the new rules of Indy, teams cannot have a backup driver step in during a race. They also cannot prepare a substitute driver to start the race unless he is cleared to compete. This also means they would have to withdraw the original driver from the race.

So this means Kanaan couldn’t take part in the required refresher session unless Kyle Larson was officially out. Moreover, according to Rule 4.3.3.1 in the latest IndyCar rulebook, for oval races, substitute drivers must have participated in practice or a special session before the race. Hence, he isn’t a viable option to replace Larson. So who is the next best choice?

A 19-year-old rookie might replace Kyle Larson at the Indy 500

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If the weather conditions move opposite to Larson’s manifestation, Arrow McLaren has to make a critical decision. With Kanaan out of the picture due to not partaking in qualifying, his eligibility is highly uncertain. In light of the situation, the next best possible driver to take Kyle Larson’s seat is Nolan Siegel, a 19-year-old rookie. He recently attempted to qualify for the 200-lap race but was unsuccessful and right now he might be the only option.

His qualification bit ended after a Fast Friday crash and another crash on bump day. However, despite lacking experience, he has completed his Rookie Orientation Program, which makes him a viable candidate for the big day. Even though the team might have its doubts, entrusting someone so young and inexperienced to get on such a grand stage, if the situation demands it, they don’t have a choice. 

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In the event of bad weather causing Kyle Larson to leave for the Coca-Cola 600, either Larson or Siegel can complete a lap and then bring the car into the pit. This will ensure that the team doesn’t withdraw and at least get the last-place prize money. Also, it’s crucial to note that if Siegel does replace Kyle Larson, he would have to start 33rd on the grid due to post-qualifying changes according to the IndyCar rules. 

So what do you think? Will the weather go for a toss and pour down on Kyle Larson’s plan? Or can he complete this challenging feat despite all odds?