Kyle Larson looks on at the grid at North Wilkesboro. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Larson Qualifies For Indy, Jets To North Wilkesboro For Stout Result

Nearly three hours after qualifying fifth for his first Indianapolis 500 with Arrow McLaren in the NTT IndyCar Series, Kyle Larson took the green flag aboard a NASCAR Cup Series car at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. 

Crazy? For Larson, that’s his month of May in a nutshell.

Wheeling an Indy car at the daunting 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at speeds eclipsing 240 mph, Larson became the fastest rookie in Indy 500 history as he qualified fifth with a fastest four-lap average speed of 232.846 mph on Sunday afternoon.

After his run and a few interviews, he was off to North Wilkesboro, N.C., to vie for the $1 million All-Star Race prize — a race he won last season.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver started at the rear of the field (20th) due to missing qualifying. 2014 Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick practiced and qualified the No. 5 Chevrolet.

Kyle Larson at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (IndyCar Photo)

Thus, Larson methodically moved forward, entering the top 10 past the halfway mark.

With 46 laps to go, the caution flag waved, which saw Larson pit from seventh place to replace his tires with soft tires, one of the options of Goodyear tires approved by NASCAR for the All-Star Race. 

It worked in his favor as the 2021 Cup Series champion charged to third place within a handful of laps before his tires wore and he ultimately finished fourth.

“Yeah, I thought we were in great position there,” Larson said. “Got to fourth pretty quickly; got to third pretty quickly. I thought I could just be patient. I built really loose for a little while, and then they started kind of inching away from me. I moved up and I was kind of hanging on from there.

“I was surprised that the guys that didn’t pit were as strong as they were. I thought we were going to be in the best position there to win.

“Hats off to the No. 5 Chevy team,” Larson continued. “I know they had a lot of work this week; having Kevin (Harvick) practice, swap seats and everything back to where I could drive it. Proud to go back and forth and have a shot to win.”

The $1 million check wasn’t meant to be. However, it was a noteworthy performance considering Larson has been wheeling an Indy car for a week straight without climbing aboard his usual stock car. 

In what was a whirlwind of a day, Larson was still beaming from his effort at Indianapolis.

“It just makes it all mean something more,” Larson said. “To be lined up on the second row of the Indianapolis 500 is pretty crazy. Yeah, I just can’t believe it, really. I thought if we could make the Fast 12, that would be exceeding expectations.

“To qualify as well as we did yesterday and then get into the Fast Six today was unbelievable. Happy with how it’s gone so far there, and now I look forward to hopefully get better in race trim.”

Larson heads back to Indy for practice on Monday afternoon.