2024 Indianapolis 500 Coverage

Kyle Larson Passes Rookie Test, Cleared To Qualify For Indy 500

Kyle Larson Passes Rookie Test, Cleared To Qualify For Indy 500

Kyle Larson passed the Indy 500 Rookie Orientation program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has been cleared to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 next May.

Oct 12, 2023 by Tyler Burnett

Kyle Larson took his first steps towards running the Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 double next May on Thursday afternoon. Larson turned laps in an Arrow McLaren IndyCar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and successfully completed his Rookie Orientation Program.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion had to complete the Rookie Orientation Program in order to attempt to qualify for next May’s 108th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Larson's Rookie Orientation Program kicked off Thursday with three phases of speed brackets he needed to pass. Ten laps at 205-210 mph in the first phase, then 15 laps at 210-215 mph in the second phase, and 15 laps at 215-plus mph in the final phase. 

Larson reached 211.193 mph on lap 10 of phase one, and accomplished phase one in 17 laps. Phase two was perfect with all 15 laps in the required window. Phase three was smooth and Larson passed with no drama, eclipsing speeds in the 216 mph range. 

"It was fun," said Larson after completing the program. "It was mostly what I anticipated in a way. The speed and the grip, thankfully, didn't feel as scary as I thought it might. I thought it went smooth. I think the pit road side of things is what I'll have to work more on. The steering is slow and you have to turn the wheel so far at the slower speeds to get around somebody, and maximizing the apron is stuff I'll have to focus on and work on."

In the end, Larson completed 72 total laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his fastest lap averaging 217.898 mph. To put Larson's fastest speed into perspective a bit, the fastest rookie in qualifying for the 2023 Indianapolis 500 was Benjamin Pedersen with a lap at 233.297 mph. Pedersen's qualifying lap was the fastest lap turned by a rookie in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

Larson was among four drivers this week attempting Rookie Orientation Program. Chip Ganassi Racing's Marcus Armstrong and Linus Lundqvist, along with Meyer Shank Racing's Tom Blomqvist all passed their Rookie Tests as well and all four will make attempts to qualify for the 2024 Indy 500 in May. 

Larson completed the test with his NASCAR car owner, Rick Hendrick, and Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman, Jeff Gordon in attendance on Thursday. 

"I'm absolutely having a blast watching Kyle go through this process," said Gordon. "To go out there and see what Arrow McLaren did as well to get Kyle up to speed and through the test cleanly was great. And watching Kyle in his element and in his craft, he was nervous but then it immediately clicked within those first few laps. He doesn't just want to come here and compete. He wants to come here and be competitive."

Larson announced back in January that he plans to attempt the Memorial Day Double in 2024 and 2025. His 2024 attempt will make him just the fifth driver to attempt the Double, joining the late John Andretti, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, and Kurt Busch. 

Tony Stewart's Double in 2001 is the most successful of any who have attempted it so far. Stewart completed all 1,100 miles and finished sixth in the 500 and third in the 600 that evening. Busch's Double attempt coming in 2014 was the most recent attempt. Busch finished sixth at Indianapolis, but his day ended after 906 total miles when his engine expired in the Coca-Cola 600.

After completing the Rookie Orientation Program, Larson, who just won the inaugural High Limit Sprint Car Series championship earlier this week, will go back to focusing on winning his second NASCAR Cup Series title. Larson is one of the eight playoff drivers still with championship aspirations with four races left on the calendar. His next IndyCar laps will come next spring.

"Overall, it was a great day," Larson said. "I feel like everyone at McLaren did a really good job prepping me to make things easier to get up to speed. I'm glad to be through with today and now onto the open test in April."