2024 Indianapolis 500 Coverage

Kyle Larson Makes 'Huge Progress' During Wednesday's Indy 500 Practice

Kyle Larson Makes 'Huge Progress' During Wednesday's Indy 500 Practice

Kyle Larson finished the second day of Indianapolis 500 practice 15th-fastest but learned exactly what he needed.

May 16, 2024 by Kyle McFadden
Kyle Larson Makes 'Huge Progress' During Wednesday's Indy 500 Practice

Despite how fragmented Wednesday’s rain-delayed practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway had been, the day turned out to be a productive one for Indianapolis 500 super rookie Kyle Larson and the Tony Kanaan-led No. 17 Hendrickcars.com Arrow McLaren team.

Unable to log laps at race-level speed during Tuesday’s rain-shortened, 23-minute practice run ahead of May 26's Indy 500 presented by Gainbridge, the Elk Grove, Calif., driver registered 54 total laps across the eventual two-hour session that started at 3:05 p.m. Larson was 15th-fastest among 34 drivers.

“It’s just a little but frustrating, I guess, but it is what it is,” Larson told NBC’s Dillon Welch. “There’s plenty of track time, so trying to remember that. I’m glad they've gotten out there and got running. Still trying to figure a lot out and trying to work through the car balance some, timing of runs, and all that. And maybe the timing of runs will come easier if the car balance gets a little better.

“Trying to play around with things and be able to make runs and pass people like I see some of the others pass pretty easily. And there’s a lot of guys that seem stuck maybe. Yeah, just trying to figure that out. Overall I’m happy with the few hours we got. We’re going to go back and talk with the teammates now to listen in on what they were working through and what they felt. And see if it matches up with what I’m feeling as well. It’s good to get out there.”

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Six stoppages — three being for the weather — made it a challenge for teams to establish rhythm, but Larson’s coach for the week, 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan, said the team “made huge progress” altogether on Wednesday.

“I think he’s happy,” Kanaan told FloRacing. “We have a lot to talk about and things to analyze as far as in-car camera and stuff for sure. We made huge progress on what I’m trying to have him get better — well, not get better — but get used to in racing skills, which is running in traffic. We got him a lot of traffic runs, which was the goal.”

Larson’s 54 laps were broken into seven stints with his last run of 10 laps being the longest. His first lap at race-level speed actually propelled him to the top of the speed chart at 224.239 mph. It turned into a nice highlight reel and social media post, but Larson wouldn’t last there long, as only 10 drivers to that point had laps at race-level speed.

Lap 22 during the team’s third run produced his fastest lap at 225.245 mph, which was fifth-fastest in the moment. It was around that time that the day’s fastest driver, Scott McLaughlin at 229.493 mph, turned his quickest lap.

Will Power, Colton Herta, Josef Newgarden and Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi — all second through fifth in practice — turned their fastest laps of the day after Larson’s personal best. Larson spent the majority of his stints purposely in the back of a pack so he can gain more understanding of the draft, dirty airy, and how to best time runs.

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“I feel like I need to know what I need to feel in traffic to maintain those runs,” Larson said. “But then it’s like, if you miss that little bit or get some clean air, now it’s like, where did we lose? I just feel like there’s moments that are unpredictable. … I just try to talk to them and see what’s normal and all that. Tony’s been a great help this evening and talking with him. But it’s going to be nice to hear what the guys thought who were also out on the track today.”

Race strategist Brian Campe added that Larson’s “doing a great job with the car” and these earlier sessions are more of “learning what not to do (rather) than what to do.” It helps Larson that Rossi and Pato O’Ward, his teammates, had been fourth- and seventh-fastest from the day.

The team, along with Wednesday’s 21st-fastest driver, Callum Ilott, plan to debrief and hone in on the game plan for Thursday’s scheduled eight-hour practice, which could turn out as the nicest day of the week.

“It sounds like there may be some sort of qualifying trim runs, which will be interesting to see how that feels differently without the boost turned up or whatever because I don’t think Friday (and the weather) looks good," Larson said. "And just keep learning.”