Hendrick Motorsports suddenly dominating an Indy 500 award

Two of the last three winners of the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Award are Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series champions.
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren, Hendrick Motorsports, Indy 500, IndyCar
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren, Hendrick Motorsports, Indy 500, IndyCar / James Gilbert/GettyImages

Despite the fact that he was not the highest finishing rookie in the 108th running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Arrow McLaren's Kyle Larson was voted the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.

Hendrick Motorsports' 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion had a shot at finishing in the top five, but a late pit road speeding penalty mired him back in the pack.

A decision to top off on fuel during a later caution period led to him being able to cycle to the front and lead four laps before ultimately settling for 18th place, six spots behind top rookie finisher Christian Rasmussen, who also led a lap for Ed Carpenter Racing.

There was never really any doubt that Larson would be the winner of this year's award, and not just because of the publicity surrounding his effort. He was the fastest rookie throughout practice and was by far the fastest rookie in qualifying, putting the No. 17 McLaren-Hendrick Chevrolet on the middle of the second row in fifth place.

Due to his impressive qualifying effort and the points he scored from that, Larson actually finished the race with more total points scored than Rasmussen.

And just like that, Hendrick Motorsports find themselves dominating an Indy 500 award.

Unlike Larson this year, Jimmie Johnson wasn't associated with Hendrick Motorsports in any official capacity when he made his Indy 500 debut in 2022, having initially retired from Cup Series competition after the 2020 season.

But he did win a record-tying seven Cup Series championships with the team from 2006 to 2016, and he secured 83 victories during his 19 years with the organization.

Johnson crashed out of his Indy 500 debut late in the race, and he was not the race's fastest rookie qualifier. However, there was never much doubt that he too would be voted Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.

Given the criteria used to select Johnson two years ago, Larson was a lock, provided he opted to remain at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval following the four-hour rain delay and actually compete in the 200-lap race, rather than flying to Charlotte Motor Speedway to run the Coca-Cola 600.

It probably would have taken a rookie winner not named Larson to have a chance to change that, as Larson's performance from the start of practice to the end of the race was far better than that of Johnson.

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Larson will likely return for a second Indy 500 attempt next year after ultimately missing out on this year's Memorial Day Double due to rain at both Indianapolis and Charlotte. But it's hard to imagine Hendrick Motorsports winning any more Indy 500 Rookie of the Year awards after being associated with two of the most recent three. Who could have seen it coming?