NASCAR champion Kyle Larson turned his first laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway behind the wheel of an IndyCar on Thursday in preparation for his Indy 500 run in May.
He climbed into the cockpit of the Arrow McLaren Chevy in the morning hours, and with officials and media watching on, effortlessly piloted the car to speeds he had not experienced before in his career.
Larson turned 72 laps in total, including installation laps, with his fastest circuit of the famous oval clocking in at 217.898 MPH.
Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick, and Tony Kanaan were all on hand to provide support for Larson’s first laps for the joint project between Hendrick Motorsports and Arrow McLaren.
Talking after the runs, the 31-year-old described how the experience was mostly what he expected and that his preparation made it easier to get up to speed.
“Yeah, it was fun,” said Larson. “It was mostly what I anticipated, in a way. The speed and the grip didn’t feel, thankfully, scarier than what I thought it might.
“Just how much the car wants to pull left and you have to fight it back to the right down the straightaways was something I didn’t expect. The way the wheel was a lot lighter than the simulator but still a little heavier than what I expected.
“Other than that, I thought it went really smooth. The pit road side of things is where I’ll have to work more on. Just the steering is so slow, you have to turn so far to get in and out if you’re coming around somebody. Getting used to the steering at the slower speeds will be something to get used to.
“Then just maximizing the apron, braking for pit road, stuff like that I think is stuff I’ll have to really focus on and work on. That way we’re maximizing potential.
“Overall, it was a great day. I felt like everyone at McLaren did a really good job of prepping me to make things easier to get up to speed. So thanks to everybody there. Glad to be through the day, and look forward to the open test in April.”
Larson plans to be the first driver since Kurt Busch in 2014 to attempt The Double, meaning he will run both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in the same day and will race for 1,100 miles if he finishes both.
Only four drivers have ever competed in both events in the same year, with Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon each completing the impressive feat multiple times between 1997 and 2004.
A lot of eyes will be on Larson in the coming months as he gears up to add his name to the list of drivers to have taken on the unique challenge.