Kyle Larson Chris Owens
Kyle Larson was second quick in the Indy 500 Open Test. (Chris Owens photo)

KERCHNER: Friday Morning Heat Race

It’s time for our weekly Friday morning tour around the racing world. From hot laps to the main event, here’s what’s on our mind this week.

Hot Laps: Paying the Bills

Every year when the first portion of the racing season is plagued by rain, as it has been this year, we wonder how traveling race teams pay the bills? Yeah, there’s no fuel or tires to buy if you are rained out, but the crew still needs paid, the transporter still goes down the road and hotels must be utilized.

It’s a challenge for sure.

Qualifying: The 24 Car?

We’ve heard a lot of people say that William Byron, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, is boring. What’s boring about winning? We wonder if it’s all the same folks who thought it was boring when Jeff Gordon won 93 races and four titles driving the same Hendrick Motorsports No. 24?


First Heat: Indy Rain

It’s a familiar site in April and May, but it felt like this week’s rain-plagued test session for the NTT IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a little more disappointing than others.

With the presence of Kyle Larson and 34 total entries on the track during two abbreviated sessions, there was a lot of buzz around two days of preparation for the Indianapolis 500. What’s more with the modern shortened month of May, it meant even less track time for teams to figure out the quick set up.

Second Heat: Kyle Larson

Speaking of Larson, it certainly didn’t take the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series and reigning Knoxville Nationals winner long to figure out the fast way around the 2.5-mile superspeedway in an Indy car. Larson was second quick, behind last year’s Indy winner Josef Newgarden.

Larson lapped the circuit at better than 226 mph and was significantly quicker than his more experienced Arrow McLaren teammates.

Third Heat: Winging It

It is always interesting to see successful racers from one discipline of the sport step out their comfort zone and race different cars. Brandon Sheppard, one of the most successful dirt late model racers over the past decade, plans to compete with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series on May 1 at Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway.

Sheppard will wheel Jake Neuman’s winged sprint car, a proven winner on the MOWA circuit, at a quarter-mile track where he has plenty of laps in a late model.

We’ll be watching.

Fourth Heat: Active WoO Champions

There are only five active World of Outlaws champions and 10-time title winner Donny Schatz is the only one of them running the full schedule. Five-time champ Brad Sweet is committed to his High Limit series, but has won an Outlaw feature already this season.

The others are part-time racers Daryn Pittman and Hall of Famers Dave Blaney and Sammy Swindell, both in their 60s.

Dash: It’s An Odd Game

Racing is an odd game when compared to other sports — in many ways.

The one that probably bugs me the most is the lack of movement up and down the ladder. Many drivers linger for years in upper-tier series without producing anything in the way of results simply because they bring money or know the right people, while others simply win year after year without an opportunity to prove their skills on a bigger stage.

In football or baseball, talent wins out.

B Main: Don’t Send It

Social media has played a prominent role in society for nearly 20 years now, yet many prominent people in sports — and racing — including NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and Speedway Motorsports General Manager Marcus Smith haven’t learned an important principle involved with it.


For an entertaining account of the Internet exchange between these two, don’t miss Bones Bourcier’s column in the April 17 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider. Check it out Wednesday at, and support the writers (like Bones) who author this exclusive motorsports editorial.

Feature: Corey and Corey

Kyle Larson was recently asked about his impressions of up-and-coming drivers. He mentioned two, both with the first name — Corey Heim, who ranks second in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings, and 18-year-old open-wheel racer Corey Day.

“I would say, for me, I’d look at like — I don’t watch a ton of Truck or Xfinity races, but I feel like Corey Heim is really good. I feel like he’s really, really strong in the Truck stuff,” Larson said. “Even when he gets in the Xfinity cars, he runs super competitive, and I don’t believe he’s got the funding and the resources like the JGR cars have. So I feel like he does a really good job. 

“Then, I think there’s guys that haven’t quite made it to pavement racing or stock cars that will hopefully get an opportunity down the road that would be really good. Like from the sprint car side, I pay a lot of attention to Corey Day. He’s 18 years old and very mature. He races really hard and smart. I think he could potentially have the full package to get an opportunity and make it some day.”

Day races full-time in the High Limit Racing series that is co-owned by Larson and Brad Sweet.