2024 Indianapolis 500 Coverage

Kyle Larson Breaks Down Monday's Indy 500 Practice

Kyle Larson Breaks Down Monday's Indy 500 Practice

Monday's Indianapolis 500 penultimate practice was Kyle Larson's most productive to date.

May 21, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Don't be fooled by Kyle Larson being 28th-fastest on the overall single-lap speed charts from Monday's penultimate Indianapolis 500 practice session.

The two-hour session panned out to be the most productive of the five practice days for the 31-year-old and Chevy-Dallara-powered No. 17 Hendrickcars.com Arrow McLaren team as race strategist Brian Campe told FloRacing the collective group "checked all the boxes" on the to-do list.

"We put him in the amount of traffic we wanted to put him in. We ran him with full tanks. We ran two sets of tires almost all the way through their life. We checked those boxes," Campe said. "I think we did five pit stops. He charged pit lane pretty much every run. And then working on his in laps and working on his out laps on sticker tires. 

"As far as like checking all the boxes, we made two balance adjustments: One negative and one positive, so that was good. That gives us a good bit of direction for (Friday's) Carb Day. In general, we’re in a really happy spot for only having two hours on track. It was probably the most productive two hours since the week started.”

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Larson agrees, especially considering Monday had been the first practice session he worked through without interruptions by weather or an issue pertaining to the car. His 70 laps logged were the most from a single session around Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Oct. 12's Rookie Orientation where he completed 72 laps that day.

Kyle Larson all smiles during his Indy 500 debut. (Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski)

“Yeah, this was the best (and) most experience I’ve gotten to gain throughout the day when it comes to racing,” said Larson, whose 206 practice laps between the five practice days are fourth-fewest among 34 drivers “So I feel much more comfortable and confident that I’ll be able to do a good job and not be kind of caught off guard with as many things. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot that still catches me off guard in the race. Being able to do carb runs with pit entry and getting to do some sort of live-style pit stops was very useful for me. Yeah, I thought today was very productive.”

Simulating live pit stops — or in IndyCar parlance, hot stops — were vitally important for Larson on Monday because he had never executed one in the high-powered open-wheel machines before. That also goes for timing entries ahead of the commitment line that leads to pit road.

“I feel very comfortable getting to the commitment line," Larson said. "I feel, as far as anybody I was behind, I gained a ton of time on them. I’m not sure how much (they were) pushing it and stuff. I was. It was just good to get more comfortable with the car.”

In terms of pit stop execution, Campe said the team "looked decent but could always get better."

"We have a solid group of guys, so that shouldn’t be a problem," he added.

Brian Campe (left) is the race strategist for Kyle Larson's highly anticipated Indianapolis 500 debut. (Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski)

Larson's hairiest moment came when he charged up behind Pietro Fittipaldi while leading a pack of cars giving chase. He said "it wasn’t too sketchy from my position, but just another something I wanted to learn" when needing to make quick decisions racing amid a pack.

“And I was glad I got to do that," Larson said.

But the main takeaway for Larson through seven straight days crammed with practices, qualifications, ranging emotions and not a lot of time to rest is that he's in a good position going into Friday's final two-hour practice otherwise known as Carb Day.

“We got the big chunks out of the way: Qualifying up front, we got a really good race car, our no-tow speed was fourth-quickest (on Monday), he was happy with the balance in traffic," Campe said. "He doesn’t feel like he’s playing defense, at least. He doesn’t feel like he can be offensive with the car and get big runs and pass people, but he’s at least not on defense.

"So, yeah, the big, big, big chunks are done. Now it’s down to details. Those are the details the guys who run here every year are working on, too. We’re in that group of guys who are just going to be working on details on Friday.”

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