Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Weather Threatens to Throw Wrench in Larson’s Chase for the Double

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Kyle Larson already has a daunting plan in front of him on Sunday as he plans to run both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in the latest attempt of a driver trying the INDYCAR/NASCAR doubleheader.

Throw in a curveball with an iffy weather forecast for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the Arrow McLaren/Hendrick Motorsports partnership for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion will have some hard decisions to make on whether to keep Larson in Indianapolis for his first try at the 500 or to pull the plug and bounce to Charlotte for the 600.

“It’s stressful because weather is always unpredictable, but you just don’t really know until it’s like happening. So, it’s hard to plan for weather,” said Larson of trying to account for the weather on Sunday.

“You can have all these plans and backup plans and backup plans for the backup plan. But you just can’t really do anything or react until it’s kind of the moment. That’s what’s a little bit stressful.”

Larson, who is scheduled to start fifth in his No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet at Indianapolis, would prefer it doesn’t rain at all, but if it does would like it to be an all or nothing day so he and his team won’t have to make the call to pull him out of the 500 to head south to Charlotte.

“It doesn’t look too promising for Indy on Sunday, but I think for me where I sit, if it’s going to rain, I hope it rains all day. That way it can just get pushed to Monday or something, and then Charlotte is not going to rain, I just hope it doesn’t rain, and we can get it in on Sunday night and then come here Monday.

“Again, it’s weather. The forecast changes kind of every day. But yeah, we’ll see.”

Rick Hendrick, who owns his Cup Series car and is partnering with Arrow McLaren on his Indianapolis attempt noted that it will have to be a game time decision on Sunday, but hopes he and the HMS management won’t have to be in that position in the first place.

“That’s a tough question because we’ve talked about it many times, and we know we need to be at Charlotte for the points. We’re just going to let it play out, and then Kyle and myself and Jeff Gordon, we have Andrews, we’ll make that decision Sunday,” said Hendrick.

“It would be very hard. It would be very tough. Would be very disappointing because of all the effort that everyone has put in, from Arrow McLaren to Zak and the crowd, our marketing people. We’ve got a tremendous amount of folks there at Indy, and he’s in such a good position, it would be extremely hard.”

Santino Ferrucci, who starts alongside Larson on the outside of the second row, joked with Larson on Thursday that he should follow the Tony Stewart plan for approaching the Double attempt.

“Call Tony Stewart,” Ferrucci said.

Larson asked, “What did he do?”

“It rained and he was leading and he said he would deal with the consequences. It’s the Indy 500,” Ferrucci responded.

After confirming that Larson already has a win in the Coca-Cola 600, he added that he would like to see Larson stay in Indianapolis and fight it out in the 500.

“You’re good. Stay here. I like having you here,” Ferrucci said. “They didn’t have the Playoffs back when he raced, so it’s a completely — yeah, dude, you’re good. I’d say he’s staying here.”

Likewise, from Larson’s Arrow McLaren teammate Alexander Rossi, who won the Indy 500 in his first start as a rookie in 2016. Rossi noted that the race day experience at the Indianapolis 500 is one of a kind and he would like to see Larson get to experience that.

“Man, as memorable for me as the end was, I fell in love with this event at 9:00 a.m. that morning just because I had no idea kind of — you go through all of the processes to get to that point and you hear about it, but you don’t really realize until you open your bus door that morning, and you’re like — it is a life-changing kind of event and experience to be a part of,” Rossi explained.

“I’m excited for him. I’m excited for every rookie that gets to experience it this year because it is one of those things that will change your appreciation for this race and kind of motorsports in general.

“It’s a really cool kind of three, four hours, the buildup that happens. Really hope for a lot of reasons, kind of along the same line, that there is no weather so that he and the others can experience the full kind of buildup to the event with all of the tradition and beauty that goes along with that.

“Fingers crossed that it all works out that way.”

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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.