2024 Indianapolis 500 Coverage

Engine Change Slows Kyle Larson's Indy 500 Thursday Practice

Engine Change Slows Kyle Larson's Indy 500 Thursday Practice

Kyle Larson logged only 29 laps during Thursday's Indianapolis 500 practice, third-fewest among 34 drivers.

May 17, 2024 by Kyle McFadden
Engine Change Slows Kyle Larson's Indy 500 Thursday Practice

The most promising weather days of Indianapolis 500 practice week did not turn out so promising in performance nor progress on Thursday for Kyle Larson, whose third day of practice had been hindered by a precautionary engine change to begin the morning.

Even with five hours, 46 minutes of practice time, Larson could only log 29 laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the third-fewest among the 34-driver Indy 500 field. Missing the opportunity for long drafting runs earlier in the day buried Larson in the speed charts — 25th-fastest overall at 222.805 mph and 24th-fastest among non-tow laps at 219.536 mph (non-drafting laps where he's not within 10 seconds of a car ahead).

Larson's Arrow McLaren teammate, Pato O'Ward, was quickest overall with his lap of 228.861 mph. During post-practice media availability, O'Ward said Larson's engine change caught him by surprise.

"I didn't know they were going to do an engine change," O'Ward said. "Then I asked around and it seemed like it was a mileage thing? That it was going to happen. But obviously it's not ideal for them to get the same amount of laps considering he's new to IndyCar, he's new to the Indy 500, he's new to basically everything that happens with the Indy 500 and with the car. For them, I do hope it doesn't rain much more. 

"But Kyle looks comfortable. I think he's fine. Like I said today, guys can be looking so comfortable, but soon as the boosts come out, it might completely change directions or he might feel as good or even better. Really got to see tomorrow."

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The engine change prompted a day of waiting around for Larson as his Chevy-Dallara-powered No. 17 Hendrickcars.com Arrow McLaren Team didn't hit the racetrack until 11:26 a.m. Once it did, he could only complete 11 laps in race trim until the team went back to the garage at approximately 12:30 p.m. to swich over to qualifying trim. 

That process, for whatever reason, took more than three hours and Larson didn't return to the 2.5-mile oval until shortly after 4 p.m. From there, Larson could only get in 11 laps over because of wet weather that halted action at 4:45 p.m.

Larson was able to squeeze in six more laps between 5:35 and 5:50 before the session ended under yellow because of more wet weather. The 2021 NASCAR Cup champion appeared frustrated for most of the day, likely letdown that another practice day didn't go according to plan.

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His 85 laps total through three fragmented sessions are fourth-fewest among Indy 500 competitors and fewest of the six rookies. Rookie Tom Blomqvist's 202 laps are the most while rookie Nolan Siegel's 167 and Scott McLaughlin's 164 are second- and third-most.

"These days are so long," Larson said. "Hopefully everything goes according to schedule for our team so we can actually get to work and get to learning stuff. And allow me to learn as well."

While Larson lounged around most of the day, he tried staying in the loop by listening to other drivers' interviews and commentary of the day's practice session. At this point, any little bit of knowledge helps, particularly when it comes to qualifying trim. On Friday, teams will be given a turbo boost of 100 horsepower that's expected to raise average speeds to excess of 235 mph.

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"I've been trying to listen to other drivers' interviews and stuff," Larsons aid. "It sounds just like the car doesn't feel as good or it's more trimmed. It's probably not quite as stuck. ... It's just been a long day of not a whole lot. I just honestly want to get out there and make laps and kill some time."

Friday doesn't look promising weather-wise as there's a threat of rain for most of the day. Larson will stick around Indianapolis the next two days, through Saturday's qualifications and Sunday's Fast 12 should he qualify inside the top-12 (Arrow McLaren qualified all four cars in last year's Fast 12, so it's not far-fetched) until he has to jet to North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway before NASCAR's All-Star race on Sunday at 8 p.m.

"There's not really any crazy logistics that happen until this weekend and next weekend," Larson said. "Yeah, it's all been fine. I have my motorhome here. Everybody is very accommodating for having stuff ready for you whenever you need it. That part of it is really nice.

"It's been an enjoyable experience to this point. Just would like to experience driving the car some more."