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NASCAR star Kyle Larson to run Indy 500 rookie orientation in October

NASCAR champion Kyle Larson will get his first taste of Arrow McLaren’s IndyCar when he attempts rookie orientation at Indianapolis in October, ahead of his 2024 Indy 500 shot.

Kyle Larson

The 2021 NASCAR Cup champion aims to make his IndyCar Series debut in a Hendrick Motorsports-owned fourth McLaren-Chevrolet entry in the 108th running of the Indy 500 next May.

A necessary step towards that is gaining his clearance as a rookie, which has now been arranged for a test in October. Larson has already driven the car virtually on GM’s simulator, and has had his seat fitting at McLaren’s workshops at Indianapolis – revealing that his seat insert is exactly the same as his driving advisor Tony Kanaan.

Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren livery unveil

Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren livery unveil

Photo by: IndyCar

Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren livery unveil

Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren livery unveil

Photo by: Arrow McLaren SP

Speaking at the unveiling of his #17 car’s livery at IMS on Sunday morning, Arrow McLaren’s racing director Gavin Ward outlined what’s in store for Larson.

“We've got the seat fit down,” he said. “We've done some laps in the sim. We're getting ready to do some first real running here in October.

“[We will] come here straightaway, but I think we definitely wouldn't rule out other oval testing before coming back here next year. So that's definitely something we're looking at.

“Our goal is just to build up and get as much prep and seat time as we can, just to hit the ground running and be as prepared as possible come May.

“We're building up that plan. So, we'll communicate that once it's all finalized. Just in general, trying to maximize everything we can to get up and running as best as possible.”

Kyle Larson Memorial Weekend 'double' liveries

Kyle Larson Memorial Weekend 'double' liveries

Larson attended the first day of Indy 500 practice in mid-May, to get an overview of what he can expect next year, and says he remains “nervous” about getting in the car for himself.

He will become the first driver since Kurt Busch in 2014 to attempt the 1,100-mile Memorial Weekend double, as he’ll be racing in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 later in the day at Charlotte.

“I definitely, obviously, look forward to October and getting to do the rookie orientation,” said Larson. “I have thought about that a little bit, so I am nervous when I do think about that.

“But I think once I get in the car, a lot of those nerves will hopefully go away after a few laps, and it will feel like home, just like all the other race cars I drive.

“I think of how easy it's all been, as far as like going to fit the seat and all that. I thought it would be a full day process, and it was like an hour. It's like really? We're done? So it's just stuff like that.

“Just getting eyes on stuff a year in advance will hopefully make things a little less overwhelming for next year. I thought that was really important to come to a practice day and also get to come to the race for a little while, just to get reminded of how crazy this place becomes with all the people and the ceremonies and all that.

“I think getting eyes on it all was good, and it will hopefully knock some of the edge off next year.”

Gavin Ward, Competition Director, Arrow McLaren, Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon, Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports

Gavin Ward, Competition Director, Arrow McLaren, Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon, Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

The McLaren project will be veteran NASCAR team boss Rick Hendrick’s first experience of IndyCar racing, coming less than a year after his first Le Mans 24 Hours adventure with the Garage 56 program – which was also partnered with Chevrolet.

“We're just real excited to think we can partner with a world class team that has tremendous speed and reputation,” said Hendrick. “I feel very, very fortunate.

“Number one, I felt I wanted to own the car, but I had to have a partner to make it work. So, Gavin and his team, everybody there, Zak [Brown], have been so helpful. We feel like we've been together longer than six months, but it's an exciting time and something all of us have dreamed about.

“Daytona and the Indy 500 – and I got to do the 24 Hours of Le Mans – so I'm kind of getting my bucketful here. I never dreamed I'd go to Daytona in a stock car, so we're coming up on 40 years next year. [Indy] is such an unbelievable place, that and Charlotte, doing the 600 and this race. It's going to be unbelievable.

“We all talked about it. Kyle wanted to do it. We're just very fortunate that Arrow McLaren were able to put it together for us. So, I can't wait to have that car in the museum.”

In contrast to the ‘one-and-done’ Garage 56 Le Mans project, this program has the potential to continue in subsequent years, with McLaren’s racing chief executive Brown stating in January: “it can certainly lead to other opportunities in the future”.

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