Kyle Larson has green light to go after something bigger than Le Mans in 2023
His bosses have a racing-related dream outside of NASCAR, and Kyle Larson has another. Winning another Cup Series championship remains the primary goal for both, as it does every season. But Larson now has the green light to tackle one of motorsport’s gems.
Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon have told Larson he can aim for a spot on the Indianapolis 500 grid, according to multiple outlets.
Kyle Larson has the OK, but he has no Indy race yet
The wheels aren’t in motion yet, but Kyle Larson has approval from his bosses at Hendrick Motorsports to race next year’s Indianapolis 500 – aka “Racing’s Greatest Spectacle” – if he can muster rooms.
“I would love to do it,” Larson said Saturday, according to Race in America. “I want to be in the best equipment possible, the best crew. I mentioned to Jeff and Rick that I’d like to do it (but) I did it a year ago too.
The buzz that started last month about Kyle Busch possibly shooting the Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 next year now that he’s free from Joe Gibbs Racing has already died down. Larson has now become the subject of Indy 500 speculation even as he battles to defend his NASCAR Cup Series championship.
For his part, Larson says he lets his management team handle the options outside of NASCAR. As of now, he’s halfway through the playoffs and doesn’t know if any potential IndyCar contenders have even made informal overtures to bring him to Indy on Memorial Day weekend.
“As far as I know, I don’t (know) whether anyone did it or not,” Larson said. “I told Jeff and Rick I’d like to do it and it’s up to them to come up with something.”
Hendrick Motorsports was less restrictive
Kyle Larson was born in Elk Grove, Calif., but spent a lot of time racing around the Midwest to rise through the ranks. He cut his teeth in NASCAR in an Xfinity Series car with Turner Scott Motorsports in 2013 and moved up to the Cup Series with Chip Ganassi Racing the following year.
It was a huge opportunity for a 21-year-old, but it also came with restrictions. Ganassi set limits on the time Larson could spend racing his beloved Sprint Cars and other models. Hendrick Motorsports also used to limit outdoor racing, but accepted a more liberal schedule when it signed Larson before last season.
Now, title sponsor HendrickCars.com even underwrites much of Larson’s non-NASCAR schedule. The driver said one of the few restrictions he had was that HMS didn’t want him to race the Indianapolis 500 in 2022. There are no such restrictions next year for trying “The Double” for Kurt Busch’s last attempt in 2014.
In a way, it would have been hypocritical for Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon to retain Larson. Hendrick Motorsports is spearheading NASCAR’s “Garage 56” entry into the 24 Hours of Le Mans next season. HMS is working on a modified Next Gen Chevy Camaro in a project led by seven-time champion crew chief Chad Knaus.
Larson and other current HMS drivers were considered candidates to drive this entry, but the 2023 NASCAR schedule conflicts with Le Mans dates.
What would it take to bring Kyle Larson to Indy on Memorial Day weekend?
Only four drivers attempted to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Tony Stewart in 2001 was the only one to complete the 1,100 miles.
Driving skill is no obstacle for Kyle Larson. Although he has yet to complete rookie certification at Indianapolis Motor Speedway like Jimmie Johnson did this season, Larson’s impressive NASCAR record suggests he would pull it off.
If anything, his real challenge might be finding the right team and the right financial backing, and that tripped up Kyle Busch, who was the NASCAR contender last month to try Indy. The Associated Press reported his talks with McLaren quickly fell apart because the two-time NASCAR champion didn’t have enough sponsor support behind him.
The news service reported that Larson will almost certainly have to partner with a Chevrolet team, which limits options. McLaren racing boss Zak Brown is said to be open to adding a fourth car for the Indianapolis 500. However, Brown has a large, albeit fluid, roster of drivers to accommodate; Larson should bring to the table the kind of financial proposal that Busch couldn’t muster.
It’s doable, although successfully defending his NASCAR title would go a long way in getting the right people to write checks in his name.
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