Photo: INDYCAR/Arrow McLaren

Kyle Larson Gets Another Taste of INDYCAR in Phoenix Test

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

With the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 growing closer by the day, Kyle Larson is continuing to gain experience behind the wheel of an open wheel car and added more data to his memory bank with a Monday evening test at Phoenix Raceway.

Though the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion has already turned some laps in his Arrow McLaren Chevrolet at Indianapolis Motor Speedway late last year in his Rookie Orientation Program, Monday was the first time he has run the car in 2024.

Fresh off the conclusion of the Cup Series season-opening exhibition race at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Larson jetted over to Phoenix to test his Indy car in a test that was moved from Tuesday to Monday night to try and get ahead of the same wet weather that also pushed the Cup race a day earlier.

Given the vast differences between the 2.5-mile Indianapolis oval and the one-mile oval in the Arizona desert proved to be an eye-opening experience for the 31-year-old California native.

“Honestly, yesterday was probably more uncomfortable just because it’s a smaller track,” Larson said. “Things are happening quicker. You’re having to lift off the throttle a little bit. At Indy, once we got through the different stages and stuff, we were wide open pretty easy by yourself. It was a cool day and all that.

“Yesterday was fun to kind of have to work on the timing of the corner and work through some balance things because, yeah, I mean, the balance was definitely not perfect, which was good to feel.

“At Indy, like I said, I’m out there by myself. They have downforce packed into it. I’m comfortable. Didn’t really feel much about the car changing there, so… It was good to feel the car not be quite perfect at times yesterday.”

Throughout the course of the three-to-four-hour session, Larson, as well as his Arrow McLaren crew that will be a part of his attempt at the Memorial Day Double were able to get plenty of reps with him able to learn the quirks and intricacies of his Indy car in a fast-paced environment.

Larson even had a moment toward the end of the session in which he found the edge and had to catch himself.

“We went to do a long run, had different air pressures and stuff to start,” Larson explained. “The car felt a lot different early in the run. I kind of had my mind made up that it was going to build tighter. It was like starting to get loose pretty quickly. I was a bit confused, wasn’t quite expecting that. I was trying to make adjustments on the weight jacker and things like that.

“Yeah, just got caught off guard a little bit. I had some warnings a few laps before. I went into INDYCAR turmoil. Got a little bit loose into the corner, got to the apex. As I was leaving the bottom, it just started to get sideways. Was able to catch it.

However, the more things change, the more things stay the same as Larson noted that his experience driving a Next Gen NASCAR Cup car is much more similar to IndyCar than some would think and driving the two vehicles will help him in both stock cars and open wheel cars.

“Honestly, though, nothing about yesterday felt way different than what a Cup car, Next Gen car, feels like. That was good for me. I think the characteristics of the INDYCAR versus the Cup car, at least at Phoenix, felt very similar. You’re just going a lot faster in an INDYCAR.

“The moments happen a lot quicker. The edge of good versus not good feels a lot sharper. Yeah, it didn’t feel way, way different than what I was, I guess, used to. Even with those moments of getting sideways, it didn’t feel way different.”

Next up in Larson’s testing campaign will be the Open Test at Indianapolis on April 10th and 11th, in which he will get the opportunity to be on track with other competitors for the first time.

Then comes the real test in the Month of May when Larson and his Arrow McLaren team will turn their attention toward being one of the Fastest 33 so he can join the ranks of those that have attempted to complete the 1100-mile double-header at Indianapolis and Charlotte.

Prior to Larson’s attempt this year, others including John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch have all attempted the feat. Of those drivers, Stewart put in the best combined finish with a sixth-place run at IMS and a third at Charlotte.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.