NASCAR Champion Kyle Larson will race the 2024 Indianapolis 500 with McLaren.
The 30-year-old, who won the 2021 Cup Series title, has long harbored the ambition to race in the Indy 500, and with this somewhat surprising early announcement, IndyCar has a confirmed entrant going into the ‘double duty’ of racing at Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day.
The entry is endorsed and sponsored by Larson’s NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick, whose namesake team has captured 14 Cup Series titles with Larson, Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson.
“I am so excited,” said Larson. “Competing in the Indianapolis 500 is a dream of mine and something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time — ever since I was a kid before I started competing in sprint cars.
“Doing this with Arrow McLaren and Mr. Hendrick in particular is a dream come true.
“I am grateful for the opportunity and really look forward to it even though it is still about a year and a half away.
“I am really looking forward to competing in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 and maybe even a win or two that day.”
McLaren has a rich history of wildcard entries in recent editions of the Indy 500 – with Fernando Alonso driving McLaren-backed cars in 2017 and 2019, and with Alonso then Juan Pablo Montoya (pictured below) driving a third car after McLaren got its own starts full-time IndyCar team in 2020.
For 2023, a new opportunity opened up as the team expanded to three full-time cars, with a fourth car at the Indy 500. Initially McLaren discussed a deal with another NASCAR star, Kyle Busch, before eventually signing 2013 winner Tony Kanaan.
Arrow McLaren and Hendrick Motorsports are both powered by Chevrolet.
Larsson will join Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi in 2024, with teammate Felix Rosenqvist’s future in 2023 so far uncertain and McLaren F1 Team reserve driver Alex Palou available on the market.
“The addition of Kyle Larson with the HendrickCars.com partnership to the Indy 500 line-up in 2024 is exciting for the Arrow McLaren team as well as for the racing fans,” said Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing.
“He’s a complete driver, known for racing anything on wheels, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Kyle can do in the NTT IndyCar Series car.
“It was great working with Rick Hendrick and… [Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman] Jeff Gordon for putting this together, so a big thank you to them for what happens in May 2024.”
It is common in modern motorsports that drivers often require special permission to race outside of their main priority series.
But Hendrick has been open to supporting Larson’s desire to race outside of NASCAR, as Larson is one of the most successful dirt racers in the country.
McLaren believes his career tally of wins is more than 400, and without Hendrick opening up to Larsson racing further, this entry would not have been possible.
A new name is coming to the Indianapolis 500. ✍️
– Team Arrow McLaren IndyCar (McLarenIndyCar) January 12, 2023
Hendrick also gave Larson a big break after a scandal in which Larson used a racial slur in 2020, he was sacked by his then-team Chip Ganassi Racing and had to spend a period on the sidelines under suspension by NASCAR before returning to win the title in his first attempt with Hendrick in 2021.
It would be the legendary team owner’s first Indy 500, despite his team winning 10 Cup Series races at the Indianapolis Oval.
“Having the opportunity to support Kyle, partner with an elite team such as Arrow McLaren and promote HendrickCars.com in one of the world’s greatest motor racing events is truly unique,” said Rick Hendrick.
“We are all competitors. Putting Kyle in top-tier equipment and allowing him plenty of time to prepare for such a tough challenge was important.
“It would be very special for Chevrolet to present at the Indy 500 as the owner of the car. It was a collaboration like this that we needed to make it happen, and luckily the stars lined up.
“We are 100% committed to getting it right and we look forward to working with Zack and his organization.”
Double Duty drivers
There have been 10 proper “double duty” qualifying attempts at the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600. Not surprisingly, no wins—giving 600 miles in a hot Cup Series car is exactly the last thing you want to follow 500 miles of faster action at Indy .
But there are still some great attempts at it. Here are three we picked.
Tony Stewart – 2001
‘Smoke’ finished sixth in his first Indy 500 with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2001—his final attempt at racing—and followed that up with a third-place finish at Charlotte, which is the best combined result in the two events for someone doing double duty.
Despite going through the Charlotte race and following a strict fitness and diet regimen, Stewart still ran the race’s only double-ended finish with two laps to go.
Kurt Bosch – 2014
It was the first double attempt in 10 years, and in driving for Andretti and that year’s Cup Series champion Stuart Haas in the respective races Busch had equipment as good as Stewart in 2001.
Busch impressed at his first attempt at the Indy 500 by finishing sixth as Stewart, but it was another Andretti driver in Ryan Hunter-Reay who took the overall honors. At Charlotte, the Bosch engine exploded, ending his charge.
Robby Gordon – 2000
Robby Gordon is the most prolific attempter here – he’s pulled the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 double duty five times. His second effort, in which he represented the Menard team in both races, succeeded – you guessed it! – Sixth place.
As in the case of Bosch, Gordon’s Coca-Cola 600 went south. A rain delay in Indianapolis caused PJ Jones to start the Charlotte race in Gordon’s car.
Gordon later took over but only finished 35th – and according to NASCAR rules, Jones got the race points anyway.