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Could Kyle Larson MISS The Double?

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What’s Happening?

This week is one of the most hotly anticipated on the racing calendar every year, and it’s a bit more exciting with Kyle Larson slated to run “The Double,” the Indy 500 on Sunday afternoon, and the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday evening. However, could schedule changes cause Larson to miss “The Double”?

  • Kyle Larson qualified 5th at the Indianapolis 500, meaning he will qualify for both races. The window to make both races work is tight, but it is doable, provided there are no major changes to the schedule.
  • However, two things are out of Larson’s control: the weather and a notable guest visiting the track this weekend. If Larson has to miss one race or the other, both teams need to devise contingency plans.
  • Fans are concerned about whether Larson can make both races this weekend. Could something throw the entire schedule out of wack?

The Weather

As of this writing, the weather forecast for both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 are iffy at best. Granted, it’s still early in the week, so, forecasts can change. However, it’s a very real possibility that rain could impact one or both races.

It’s worth noting that the Indianapolis 500 has not had a rain delay since 2007 when the race was shortened by 34 laps due to rain. The race has not been outright postponed since 1997. The 2019 race, which I attended, had a 100% chance of rain forecasted for race time as late as the track opening up that morning, but, no rain came.

The Indianapolis 500 has generally gotten lucky with the weather, but a pessimist would say the event is due for a weather-related delay or postponement.

The Coca-Cola 600 being delayed doesn’t matter all that much since it’s after the Indianapolis 500, but, if the Indy 500 is delayed by an hour or two, Larson could be in a tight spot. It could cause him to choose either being late for the Coca-Cola 600 or skipping out of the Indianapolis 500. However, the weather is not the only thing Larson has to contend with.

The Arrival of Donald Trump

On Monday, Charlotte Business Journal’s Erik Spangberg relayed comments from Charlotte Motor Speedway general manager Greg Walter that former President Donald Trump plans to attend the Coca-Cola 600. Now, how does this affect Kyle Larson?

Larson will get to Charlotte via a private jet and a helicopter ride. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expresses these restrictions on its website, which could apply to this instance.

No person may operate an aircraft over or in the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, the Vice President, or other public figures contrary to the restrictions established by the FAA and published in a NOTAM.

FAA

While Trump is no longer the President, could he fall under the umbrella of “Other public figures” since he is the Republican nominee for President? Maybe he will, or maybe he won’t. However, Bob Pockrass reports that this should not impact Larson’s travel into Charlotte from Indianapolis.

Thankfully, it seems Larson will only have to worry about the weather. What could the scenario be?

The Contingency Plan

What if Larson cannot make the Coca-Cola 600 on time? Well, McLaren had a contingency plan in place should Larson win the Indianapolis 500. 2013 race winner Tony Kanaan is with the team as the reserve driver for Larson, but, the team elected not to have Kanaan complete required testing to become eligible to race. Kanaan is no longer able to substitute.

Larson has repeatedly expressed that the Coca-Cola 600 is his top priority. If he misses the race, he is ineligible for the NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoffs and, as a result, cannot win the Championship.

NASCAR has granted waivers in the past to drivers who missed races. This happens when a driver is forced to miss a race due to something out of their control, like an injury.

However, NASCAR hasn’t granted waivers to drivers who had no intention of competing in the full season to begin with. Justin Haley was not granted a waiver into the Playoffs in 2019 after his win at Daytona because he was not a full-time competitor and had no intention to compete full-time.

Larson’s instance is very much a gray area. On one hand, he would voluntarily miss the race because he is competing in the Indianapolis 500, the biggest motor race in the world. On the other hand, he would have practiced and qualified the car at Charlotte with every intention of competing in that race.

NASCAR did push back the All-Star Race by 16 minutes to give Larson enough time to get to the track after Indy 500 qualifying. However, that was a non-points event. the Coca-Cola 600 is a crown jewel race on network TV, so, that same flexibility is probably not there.

Most recently, Larson’s NASCAR team owner, Rick Hendrick, talked to Bob Pockrass about this potential scenario. Hendrick said the decision would be collaborative between himself, HMS Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon, Larson, and HMS Executive Vice Presiden and General Manager Jeff Andrews. Hendrick also insinuated that it would likely be a game-time decision.

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