Why is Kyle Larson’s Indy500 Run More Quintessential than Any NASCAR Driver’s Double Duty?

Published 04/12/2024, 2:04 AM EDT

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While William Byron is being hailed as the next big thing in the Cup Series, another Hendrick Motorsports driver is aiming to showcase his dominance in not one, but two marquee events. Joining the likes of Tony Stewart and, most recently, Kurt Busch in 2014, Kyle Larson is all set to become only the sixth driver ever to attempt both the Coke 600 and the Indy 500 on the same day.

With that, Larson’s entry into the list of double-duty drivers carries a different momentum. Not only is Larson poised to be one of the best NASCAR drivers on the grid currently, but he’s also a formidable force in dirt racing. But that’s not all. A veteran who experienced the dominance of NASCAR’s greatest drivers highlighted the edge Kyle Larson has over the previous doubleheader participants.

Kyle Petty reveals what sets Kyle Larson apart from other Indy500 aspirants in NASCAR


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Although winning a race is the primary motive for any driver, the greats tend to take that one step further by attempting glorious challenges like the Triple Crown. And the Coke 600-Indy 500 double isn’t too different. Over the past few decades, many NASCAR drivers have attempted the Indy 500, such as Cale Yarbrough and Bobby Allison in the 1970s. With that said, none have been as poised for the win as Larson, according to Kyle Petty.

The veteran NASCAR driver joined Eric Estepp’s Out of the Groove podcast and shed light on why Kyle Larson is a ‘special kind’ of driver. Speaking about the drivers he’s seen throughout the decades, according to him, Tim Richmond was the most talented, winning the 1980 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. Petty also believed Kyle Busch was similar and could get the job done in any category. But as for Kyle Larson, the story was slightly different.

The veteran shared, “Kyle Larson is a special kind. And what I mean by that is, I think Tim came to Cup Racing over from Indycar and found a home here, and Kyle (Busch) has found a home here.” Speaking of the other star drivers of the modern era who had found their stride in one category, Kyle Larson’s versatility was his greatest strength. The veteran added, “I look at Larson, and he’s a little bit different. Because not only do we talk about that he can drive anything, we have to talk about he can win in anything.” The veteran also went on to draw a comparison between the HMS star and NASCAR HoF Inductee and multitalented racer Tony Stewart.

For Petty, Kyle Larson was comparable to Stewart in the sense that both found great success in multiple disciplines. But the Hendrick Motorsports driver still had an edge. The 63-year-old shared; “He’s the first guy, and Tony Stewart was the only other guy that I know of, but Tony had come from the open wheel, so he had the advantage of going back to open wheel and having a shot to win it…(…)…But the fascinating conversation that revolves around Kyle Larson is that, he can go win. And people are talking about it.”

It’s safe to say Kyle Petty believes that Kyle Larson might just be the most promising NASCAR driver to ever attempt the Indy 500, win, and bring home the Coke 600 trophy, too. But naturally, the pressure on Kyle Larson is also higher than ever ever.

Larson just ‘putting up a solid performance’ at the double isn’t enough


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As the end of May approaches and Kyle Larson prepares for the Indy 500-Coke 600 double, he doesn’t just have the pressure to perform well at both races. With the high praise that veterans like Petty are singing of the #5 HMS driver, it also reveals that things could turn sour for Larson if he fails to live up to expectations. Kyle Petty seems to be aware of this fanfare around Larson’s double and summed it up perfectly.

The veteran shared, “They’re not just talking about him going up there and putting up a solid performance, ‘Just give it that good-old college trial, Kyle Larson’, ‘Just bring us something back, just make us proud back here at NASCAR’. That’s not it.” While expectations from others would consist of perhaps finishing in the top ten at both races, Kyle Larson is expected to not just participate but dominate.

The veteran felt fans had a more assertive demand from Larson’s outing. “Go up there and kick their butt. Go up there and win the race,” is what the veterans opines the popular voice will be. Still, Petty backed Larson up by highlighting his speed at the Indy 500 practice this week. He concluded, “Look at the pylon, and he’s second. He backs that up every time he sets foot in a race car. So I think he’s in that top .001% of great racecar drivers who can do anything anytime, and not only do it, but win.”


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After taking a look at how highly Kyle Petty rates his namesake HMS driver, do you think Larson can not only win the Indy 500 but also the Coke 600 and set a new standard next to the Triple Crown?


Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed


One take at a time

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed is an F1 & NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Known for his storytelling and extensive research skills, he has covered multiple stories on Dale Earnhardt Jr and his legendary dad, allowing readers to relive the thunderous days of 'The Intimidator'. Being a racer himself, Kabir can resonate with the motorsport world better than most.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta