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Why Larson is at risk of being pulled from the Indy 500

It's been in the works for over a year, but Kyle Larson could be at risk of being pulled from the Indianapolis 500.

Kyle Larson
To news overview © IndyCar media

The anticipation of Kyle Larson finally taking on the Indianapolis 500 has been growing ever since the deal was first announced back in January 2023. 

Widely regarded as a generational motorsport talent, Larson has qualified in fifth place on his debut at The Brickyard in his McLaren-Chevrolet machine on a weekend he becomes the first driver in 10 years to try and complete what is known as 'Double Duty'.

Two of America's biggest races are held on the final Sunday in May, across the Memorial Day weekend - the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. 

Not since 2014 and Kurt Busch has someone been brave - or foolhardy - enough to attempt all 1,100 miles on the same day. 

Tony Stewart holds the distinction for the best overall result with sixth in the 2001 Indy 500 and third in the Coke 600 - but Larson's hopes of following Smoke's efforts in 2024 could be about to be scuppered - by the weather.

Kyle Larson 2024 Indy 500

Larson's main priority this weekend is his day job and not his extra-curricular activities in Indiana. 

That means scoring points and being in the Coke 600 in North Carolina is his over-riding focus, and if he needs to skip the Indy 500 to accomplish that, he will. 

His team owner Rick Hendrick is not a man known for his love of his drivers doing anything other than racing one of his Chevrolets in the Cup Series, but since Larson joined in 2021, that stance has softened.

Larson can often be found racing at a dirt track when not on Cup duty, and also has a Daytona 24 Hours win on his CV for good measure. 

But that does not hide the fact that winning the 2024 Cup Series title, and adding to his 2021 crown is the main priority this year - and if that means being pulled from the Indy 500 field, then that will be what happens. 

Larson already had a tight schedule on Sunday with the 500 typically taking three hours to complete from its 12:45pm ET start time. 

The Coke 600 is currently pencilled in for 18:00pm ET start time. Being generous, it takes about two-and-a-half hours to travel from Indiana to North Carolina, leaving Larson potentially a 45-minute window to play with. 

But there is a spanner in the works. The weather.

Could Larson be pulled from the Indy 500?

Current weather forecasts are for heavy rain and potential thunderstorms on Sunday, leading to a possible delays. 

If Larson takes to the start of the 500, then withdraws during a rain delay in a dash to Charlotte, his #17 will be parked for the day. 

But if he pulls out before the race starts, then McLaren will be allowed to put a substitute driver in, potentially Indy favourite and 2013 winner Tony Kaanan will be back for a 23rd 500. McLaren has been in talks with IndyCar over a refresher for Kaanan who has not driven at all in the month of May having retired.

Hendrick himself was asked about the decision that would need to be made regarding Larson, and admitted it would be tough.

"That’s a tough question because we’ve talked about it many times, and we know we need to be at Charlotte for the points," he explained in a media briefing with McLaren's Zak Brown.

"We’re just going to let it play out, and then Kyle and myself and Jeff Gordon, and [Jeff] Andrews, we’ll make that decision Sunday.

"It would be very hard [to pull Larson].

"It would be very tough. It would be very disappointing because of all the effort that everyone has put in, from McLaren to Zak and the crowd, our marketing people. 

"We’ve got a tremendous amount of folks there at Indy, and he’s in such a good position, it would be extremely hard."

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