Although Kyle Larson’s plans to run the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in 2024 were first announced back in January, they took another step forward on Sunday at Indianapolis with the reveal of the paint scheme for the Chevrolet-powered Arrow McLaren IndyCar Larson will race at Indy in partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, as well as the Hendrick Chevy he will race that evening in Charlotte, which will also carry splashes of papaya orange.
“It hasn’t really set in yet that it’s truly a reality,” Larson said of his plans for the Indy-Charlotte double, last attempted by Kyle Busch back in 2014. “When you have days like today and you unveil the car, all those little steps, it definitely makes it seem more real. I’m sure once things slow down in the off-season, I’m sure that’s when all the nervousness will start to creep in, as well as the excitement.”
Larson’s team boss, Rick Hendrick has an ownership stake in both of Larson’s Memorial Day efforts next year, and plans to be at both events with his driver.
“We’re just real excited to think we can partner with a world class team that has tremendous speed and reputation. I feel very, very fortunate,” Hendrick said. “Number one, I felt I wanted to own the car, but I had to have a partner to make it work. So Gavin (Ward, Arrow McLaren racing director) and his team, everybody there, Zak (Brown, McLaren Racing CEO), have been so helpful. Of course Kyle put a lot of pressure on me, and I’m used to that with cars, but it’s all good. We’re real excited to do it with Chevrolet too.”
Larson said his IndyCar simulator experience started off pleasantly within his comfort zone, but soon reached a different level.
“I did Mid-Ohio, and when I first got in it, I thought I would be out of control and go in the grass, all this stuff. I was like, ‘OK, I feel like I’m doing all right.’ I felt like I got into a rhythm.
“The engineers were staying pretty quiet. They would chime in like, ‘Hey, everything looks good. Just keep working on your braking zones and stuff. OK, more brake pressure, whatever, go a little deeper. Yep, that’s a little better.’ And I’m like, well, how much more do I need? They’re like, “Well, you need about a thousand more pounds of brake pressure.’ I’m like, ‘What?’
“So the max brake pressure there is like 2,800 pounds. That’s insane. I’ve never pushed anything that hard. For instance, here (on the Indianapolis road course) into Turn 1 we’d be like 800 pounds of brake pressure max. So trying to get your brain wrapped around slamming the pedal that hard and releasing it quickly but also like maintaining some was just super difficult for me. I couldn’t ever figure it out. I felt like I regressed once I got closer to the max brake pressure stuff.
“Then, (Arrow McLaren teammate) Felix Rosenqvist showed up and was way faster than me, so it was starting to get frustrating. It was just eye-opening to see data, right? I’ve always heard about the downforce cars and braking and all that, but I’ve never seen the telemetry of what they’re doing behind the wheel. So that was definitely interesting, to see how consistent they can be while pushing that hard was pretty wild, definitely eye-opening.”
All the new experiences will only help him as a driver, Larson believes.
“No matter the result from this whole experience, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver,” he said. “I already have, I think, just in the short amount of time I spent in the simulator.
“It’s definitely having the support that I do from the teammates at Arrow McLaren as well as Chevrolet and drivers who have raced IndyCar stuff before as well as stock cars, I’ll have a lot of people to lean on to soak up a lot of knowledge. So very, very thankful for that.”
Larson is expected to take the next step beyond simulation in October at the mandatory rookie orientation on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval.
“I look forward to prepping even more. I definitely, obviously, look forward to October and getting to do the rookie orientation,” he said. “I am nervous when I think about that. But I think once I get in the car, a lot of those nerves will hopefully go away after a few laps, and it will feel like home — just like all the other race cars I drive.”
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