Indianapolis 500 Weather Forecast May Derail Kyle Larson’s Attempt at Double

Four drivers have completed the Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, North Carolina double on the Sunday before Memorial Day. Only one driver, Tony Stewart, finished both races on the lead lap.

NASCAR’s Kyle Larson is hoping to become the second to complete such a feat, but the timing of the two events is critical. A rain delay in Indianapolis to begin the day, which right now looks likely, could make it impossible for him to finish the Indianapolis 500 before he has to fly to Charlotte.

“Yeah, 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,” Larson said. “That way it can just get pushed to Monday or something, and then Charlotte is not going to rain.”

The last time the Indianapolis 500 was postponed to a later day was in 1997, when the race began on Monday and was finally finished on Tuesday.

One caveat to all of this is that Larson is the current Cup Series leader and betting favorite at +380, and if he doesn’t race at Charlotte, he gets no points. That would knock him out of the lead. 

He is a three-time winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including in 2021, when he was Cup Series champion. He’s also the current betting favorite to win the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, paying +450. 

When asked what would happen if he couldn’t finish in Indiana before he had to leave for North Carolina, Larson said, “I think it will be a game time decision, and maybe decision’s out of my control. I think the plan right now is hopefully everything just gets going as scheduled, and we don’t have to worry about that.”

Larson talks about it being a game time decision, but in reality he is committed to Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR first and foremost. His priority is Charlotte and getting Cup Series points. And that then brings up an issue for the Arrow McLaren team at Indy. If Larson starts the race, then has to leave, their car won’t finish the 500. But if Larson is replaced before the race, the No. 17 car can race with another driver. Tony Kanaan, the winner at Indy in 2013 and a rumored fill-in, will not come out of retirement. As of now, no Plan B has been selected.

In order to be eligible to replace Larson, another driver would have to run a track qualifier. That can be done only if they remove Larson first. One other option for McLaren is Nolan Siegel, the rookie qualifier who was recently bumped from the field.

Indianapolis 500 Betting Odds

Larson is currently on the odds board in fourth place, paying +700. He’s never raced the Indianapolis 500 before, but in his IndyCar Series debut, he qualified in fifth, putting him on the second row to start.

The favorite on Sunday is Scott McLaughlin, paying +400. He sits on the pole after setting a four-lap qualifying record of 234.220 MPH. Past winners Will Power (+650) and Josef Newgarden (+550) are also on the front row, giving Team Penske a clean sweep of the top three qualifying positions.

The front row sweep was a rare bit of good new in what has been a rough year so far for Team Penske. Newgarden was stripped of a win at St. Petersburg in March, and McLaughlin lost his third place finish at that race, when both drivers were found to use illegal overtake boosts on restarts. Power also had the software installed on his car, but the computer did not show that he used it.

Newgarden and Power are two of eight previous winners at the Brickyard that will be racing on Sunday. The other six are four-time winner Helio Castroneves (+4000), two-time winner Takuma Sato (+3000), and previous champions Alexander Rossi (+1000), Scott Dixon (+1800), Ryan Hunter-Reay (+4000), and Marcus Ericsson (+7000).

The Indianapolis 500 begins at 12:45pm ET, and it typically takes around three hours, give or take. That would give Larson around two-and-a-half hours of travel time to Charlotte, which involves a helicopter from Indianapolis Motor Speedway to a local airport, and then a private plane to Charlotte, and then another helicopter to the race.

A delay of up to 30 minutes at Indianapolis, and The Double remains alive. Anything longer than that, and Larson and his team will have to make a tough choice.

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