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via Getty

via Getty

As Kevin Harvick took over the duties for the #5 Camaro ZL1 from Kyle Larson this weekend, the HMS star got up to speed with his Arrow McLaren for the Indy500 qualifying. After suffering from minor setbacks early on, Larson put in the sixth-fastest average lap time, joining 11 other drivers who stand a shot at pole position for the Indy 500.

Met with a huge round of applause from the crowd, Larson’s presence at the Indy 500 is clearly appreciated. That being said, the open-wheel racing category has been facing major concerns over its future. With the Penske scandal making things worse for the series owners, a driver like Kyle Larson may be exactly what the sport needs to turn the tides in their favor.

Can Kyle Larson’s Indy500 run improve IndyCar’s biggest flaw?

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Earlier this year, IndyCar series owner and NASCAR veteran Roger Penske came under fire for the team’s involvement in a ‘push to pass’ system. Since their $300 million takeover made headlines, Penske’s involvement with IndyCar has failed to appease many stakeholders. Despite an investment of $50 million in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the advent of COVID-19 meant that the ROI was negligible in the first few years.

Fast-forward to 2024, and this scandal that allowed Penske drivers to gain additional horsepower raised further questions. But that’s not all. Ashlee Huffman, the managing director of US operations for marketing agency Right Formula, was quoted by Adam Stern. The executive highlighted the flaws in IndyCar’s marketing platform. She stated, “On the marketing side, it seems to be a challenge consistently. A lot of the challenges come from that there has not been sustained investment, vision, and execution.”

Penske’s management of on-track action reflected well with thrilling races. But the lack of traction from marketing during a time when a new media rights deal is around the corner doesn’t reflect well for future prospects. According to Huffman, “There’s been no sustained investment, vision and execution of that, which takes stamina, focus, and a good team of people to deliver.”

Whilst the executive’s statements cast doubt on Penske’s ownership, ‘blips’ like the one Kyle Larson is creating with his double attempt certainly work in IndyCar’s favor. With Larson highlighting how thrilling an IndyCar is compared to the Next-Gen car owing to the raw speed, Penske might want to ensure such moments aren’t just blips, but regular occurrences.

Now that Larson stands a shot at taking pole position for the Indy500, the eyes on the sport are higher than they have ever been in recent memory. Speaking of which, Larson’s comments on the fan reception further solidify that notion.

Larson’s Indy 500 rollercoaster already shows signs of success

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When Kyle Larson arrived at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and hopped into the Arrow McLaren for practice, the Hendrick Motorsports driver couldn’t help but highlight his boredom and frustration. But all of that changed as soon as qualifying began. After the mechanical misfire triggered a rollercoaster of emotions, Larson finally put in a proper set of qualifying laps on the second run.

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With an average speed of 232.563 over four laps, Larson brought home sixth place and changed his fortunes around. At the end of qualifying, Arrow McLaren team principal Gavin Ward couldn’t help but share his delight; I can‘t believe how well he‘s done here. I‘m over the moon, the team at Arrow McLaren is over the moon, and Hendrick Motorsports is absolutely over the moon with how things have gone from here.” 

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Despite his earlier misfortunes in practice and the first run of qualifying, Larson was the man to watch all weekend long. From the moment that the Hendrick Cars x Arrow McLaren crew stepped into IMS, fans swarmed Larson to share their support. Larson shared with X, I definitely feel way more popular here just because I’m doing something unique. I’ve tried to take as much time and sign autographs and take pictures for fans. I feel like I’ve signed more than a thousand autographs since I’ve been here, so it’s been enjoyable.”

As the HMS driver highlighted his effect on the IndyCar community, the Penske management may want to ensure drivers like Yung Money get more opportunities for such runs. As such blips prove to be successful in promoting the sport, can Larson’s Indy500 run truly turn things around for IndyCar?