Kyle Larson to attempt 2024 Indy 500 with McLaren

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 01: NASCAR driver Kyle Larson speaks with the media during the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Media Day at Charlotte Convention Center on September 01, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

After teasing it for the past few years, 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson will attempt “Double Duty” in 2024 with McLaren.

In a press release on Thursday afternoon, it was announced that Kyle Larson will race the 108th running of the 500 with McLaren under Hendrick sponsorship, marking the first time a driver has attempted to race both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 since Kurt Busch in 2014, and just the fifth time in history.

First rumored in 2021, this announcement was both surprising and not at the same time. Since his company’s takeover of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series in late 2019, Roger Penske has stated on multiple occasions that he would like to arrange for 30-year-old Larson to race in the Indy 500 with his team, Team Penske. However, Larson chose to take the opportunity with McLaren, another Chevy-powered team.

Larson, known for his extraordinary dirt track abilities in addition to his stock car stardom, declared this opportunity “a dream” of his, going on to state “…I’ve wanted to do for a very long time – since I was a child before I ever began competing in sprint cars.” 

No easy task

“Double Duty” was introduced to the world by John Andretti in 1994, but Tony Stewart’s attempt in 2001 remains the most successful, as he stands as the only driver to date to complete all 600 laps and 1,100 miles of the two combined races.

Disregarding the obvious physical demands of the two races themselves, the logistics of the entire operation require impressive amounts of planning, coordination, and money to execute. Practice for the Indy 500 starts 12 days before the race, taking time away from a driver running a full-time NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Qualifying is the weekend prior to the race, which makes it difficult for drivers to go back-and-forth from track to track for both their IndyCar and NASCAR obligations. (The NASCAR All-Star Race is held the week before the Coca-Cola 600, which may not pose as much as a problem.)

Race day is a whole different ordeal that all comes down to logistics. Immediately after finishing (or not finishing) the Indy 500, Larson will have to jump on a helicopter to the airport in Indianapolis, and take off on the private jet that will presumably be waiting for him. As Tony Stewart did in 2001, he may receive some medical attention, possibly receiving IV fluids on the nearly 600-mile trip from Indianapolis to Charlotte, North Carolina. Once on the ground in Charl0tte, he will take a helicopter to Charlotte Motor Speedway where it should about time for the starting command.

How will Larson fare?

Obviously, no one knows for sure how Kyle Larson will perform in an IndyCar. It is widely know that his skills range from Sprint Cars to Stock Cars, but speeding over 240 mph at Indianapolis is entirely new territory. He may have the oppotunity to test at the Speedway at one of the open tests in 2023 or 2024, but no such plans have been announced so far.

But with the combined backing of Hendrick Motorsports and McLaren, Kyle Larson will make Memorial Sunday in 2024 a fun one for race fans worldwide.

Featured Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images