Monday, March 4, 2024

Larson, other Indy 500 rookies ready for 2024 following rookie orientation program

Kyle Larson has had quite an eventful week in Indiana, all without stepping into his NASCAR Cup Series car. On Tuesday, the 31-year-old captured the High Limit Sprint Car Series title at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville. Less than 48 hours later and 45 miles to the east, Larson hopped into Arrow McLaren’s #6 IndyCar entry, ready to attempt the rookie orientation program (ROP) required to participate in the Indy 500. The 2021 Cup Series champion completed the program with relative efficiency, clearing all three phases and posting a fastest lap of 217.898 miles per hour.

“Yeah, just going to feel what an INDYCAR feels like, be low to the ground, feel the acceleration through the gears was pretty crazy,” said Larson. “All of that was eye-opening and an experience that I know for sure I’ll never forget. I look forward to kind of getting around cars, feeling how the dirty air affects things.”

Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series and sponsor of Larson’s attempt at completing the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in the same day, was on site as well, showing his support for “Yung Money”.

“This is very, very important to us, no different than Garage 56. When we said we were going to do it, we spent a year, whatever it took, to do it. Although we don’t have as much to do in this situation as we did in that one, but still we want to look the part, be the part, and put our best efforts into it.”

Hendrick Motorsports President Rick Hendrick on Kyle Larson’s attempt at “The Double”

Larson and recent Chip Ganassi Racing signee Kyffin Simpson are the only drivers set to race in next year’s 500 with no previous IndyCar Series starts. The former is the latest driver to participate in IndyCar in any capacity with no prior open-wheel experience, joining drivers like Scott McLaughlin, Agustin Canapino, and Tom Blomqvist.

Marcus Armstrong, Linus Lundqvist, and Blomqvist all completed their ROP during testing on Wednesday. While all three drivers have started in at least one IndyCar race before, none have driven on an oval, meaning that they will be “rookies” for the 108th running in May. (Lundqvist and Blomqvist will run as rookies for all of 2024, Armstrong took part in every race but five, and will not be classified as a rookie for non-500 races.)

Meyer Shank Racing‘s Blomqvist laid down the fastest time of both days between the four rookies, averaging a speed of 220.176 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile oval. Lundqvist and Armstrong came in at the 219 mph range, just over half a second off of Blomqvist’s time. All three drivers passed their ROP with minimal issue.

“…comparing to all the other ovals, the speedways and the speed that you are doing here [Indianapolis], the way that it’s so big, you know, you’ve got a lot of time in the straights to have a think about things. Sometimes a little bit too much time, I would say, because you tend to overthink things in between.”

Chip Ganassi Racing Driver Linus Lundqvist

Simpson and any rookies to come who didn’t participate in this week’s test will likely complete it at IndyCar’s annual oval test in April or during opening practice for the 500 in Mid-May.