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Kyle Larson’s Indy 500 Bid: Could He MISS The All-Star Race?

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What’s Happening?

On Tuesday, NASCAR announced the schedule for the NASCAR All-Star Race, which means Kyle Larson’s busy Month of May is set. With the Indianapolis 500 qualifying happening on the same weekend, could Larson MISS the All-Star Race?

  • Kyle Larson will compete in the Indianapolis 500 in a collaboration effort between Hendrick Motorsports and Arrow McLaren SP. The actual Indianapolis 500 race weekend presents no conflicts, but, the qualifying weekend does.
  • Qualifying weekend is especially important for Larson since there are no guaranteed spots at Indy. The 33 fastest cars make the field, so, if something goes wrong, Larson can miss the field.
  • Fans are excited to see Larson attempt to pull off the “Double”. It’s the first time a NASCAR driver has attempted to do so since Kurt Busch in 2012.

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The Weekend Schedule

It’s important to note that Indianapolis Motor Speedway has not announced the qualifying weekend schedule for the Indianapolis 500 yet. However, the 2023 schedule does give a good idea of what Indy 500 qualifying can look like.

Saturday (*2023 Time Shown and Subject to Change)

  • Indy 500 Practice: 8:30-9:30 AM ET
  • Indy 500 Qualifying: 11:00 AM-5:50 PM ET*
  • Cup Series Heat Races: 5:20/6:10 PM ET

Given it takes roughly 2 hours to transfer Larson from Indianapolis to North Wilkesboro, Larson might not be at Indianapolis for the full qualifying session. He cannot lock his spot in on Saturday, so, it might make sense for him to leave early, especially if he’s in a good spot. If he is forced to stay, it might be to lock himself into the field via a top-30 qualifying time.

Sunday (*2023 Time Shown and Subject to Change)

  • Indy 500 Top-12 Practice: 11:30 AM-12:30 PM ET*
  • Indy 500 Last Chance Qualifier Practice: 12:30-1:30 PM ET*
  • Indy 500 Top-12 Qualifying: 2:00-3:00 PM ET*
  • Indy 500 Last Chance Qualifying: 4:00-5:00 PM ET*
  • Indy 500 Firestone Fast 6: 5:15-5:45 PM ET*
  • NASCAR All-Star Race: 8:00 PM

The schedule for this day depends entirely on how Larson performs, and the schedule is still subject to change. If he qualifies between 13th and 30th on Saturday, then Larson does not have any commitment at Indy on Sunday. If he qualifies 31st or worst, he has to participate in last-chance qualify on Sunday between 4 and 5 PM in order to make the field, and, if he is one of the bottom drivers in that session, he misses the race. However, that session ends at 5, giving Larson plenty of time to get to North Wilkesboro.

If Larson qualifies in the top 12, this is where the All-Star Race gets hairy. He would participate in top-12 qualifying, and, if he’s in the top-6 of that session, he would be in the Fast 6 for a shot at the pole. While he might have enough time to start the race at North Wilkesboro and qualify in the Fast 6, he would certainly miss driver intros and/or the drivers’ meeting, forcing him to start at the rear. Either way, he should make the race pretty easily, and McLaren/Hendrick could choose to skip the Fast 6 and force Larson to start on the outside of row 2.

Larson’s All-Star Commitments

With this schedule, the Heat Races are most likely for Larson to miss. It seems unlikely he will outright miss the All-Star Race. While reports have said the All-Star Race is Larson’s priority, Bob Pockrass reports that Larson could miss the race due to a “Game-day” decision.

This would require a substitute driver, and, Pockrass duly notes that a substitute driver would likely have to race in the open. Hendrick Motorsports has a few options to put someone else in the car should they feel it’s absolutely necessary.

Rajah Caruth is one option given his sponsorship with HendrickCars.com. He will also be at the track that weekend with the Truck Series racing on Saturday.

Shane Van Gisbergen is an interesting possibility. He is eligible with his win at the Chicago Street Race in 2023, so, that would be a guaranteed slot in the All-Star Race. However, the jump from Trackhouse to Hendrick may not go over well.

Either way, it seems unlikely Larson would deal with any major conflicts on Sunday for the All-Star Race. The Saturday Heat Races are the hairier situation, but, it all depends on how qualifying goes. In that instance, the same drivers could slot into the No. 5 car to compete in the Heat Races.

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