Indy 500: Kyle Larson fans in for a rude awakening?

Just how competitive will Kyle Larson be in his first ever Indy 500 attempt -- and his first ever IndyCar start?
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren, Hendrick Motorsports, Indy 500, IndyCar
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren, Hendrick Motorsports, Indy 500, IndyCar / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There have only been four drivers who have run the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, and only one driver, Tony Stewart, has managed to run all 1,100 miles. No driver has won either one of the two races during a Memorial Day Double attempt, and nobody has even attempted the feat since Kurt Busch in 2014.

2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, a former Coca-Cola 600 winner, is set to attempt it for the first time in 2024.

The Hendrick Motorsports star, who has spoken about competing in the Indy 500 for several years, is finally set to get the chance to do so, competing for Arrow McLaren in partnership with Rick Hendrick behind the wheel of the No. 17 Chevrolet at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. The late Robin Miller would be proud.

Larson has always been viewed as a driver who can drive anything with four wheels and get up to speed quickly. And for the record, he has indeed had success in just about everything he has driven. 

But does he really have a chance to win the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" this weekend?

Indy 500 a different beast for Kyle Larson?

Though it would probably take more than one hand to count the number of drivers whose rides are ultimately due to funding as opposed to straight-up talent, the current IndyCar field is still as deep and as talented as they come. The series as a whole remains objectively the most competitive racing series in the world.

This Indy 500 effort has never been about Larson getting behind the wheel of a race car and showing everybody up. Having said that, it would obviously be a big deal for the entire racing world if he manages to win; just look at where ticket sales are this year compared to last year. The hype surrounding his attempt is real.

Sure, the Indy 500 isn't a local dirt track race -- or an ARCA race. But the idea that Larson is simply competing at "lower levels" by dominating these sorts of events was quickly put to bed during Indy 500 practice and qualifying week, which he concluded by qualifying on the middle of the second row in an impressive fifth place.

A full starting lineup can be found here.

And sure, you can't replace experience, and you certainly can't replace experience at this level. This is a style of racing and a series in which Larson has made zero starts.

But categorizing Larson as a “NASCAR driver” simply because he does that full-time doesn’t do him justice. He’s a driver, and above all, he’s a racer. And despite having never taken the green flag in an IndyCar race, he actually has quite a bit more oval experience than any other driver in the Indy 500.

Given his Indy 500 qualifying effort, the differences between cars haven't seemed to matter to him too much. He has appeared to be right at home from the start, driving as fast as he's even driven -- and in an open-wheel race car.

Of course, the idea that Larson is going to walk in and dominate the biggest race in the world is straight-up arrogance. There's nothing wrong with a passionate fanbase, and Larson's is certainly that. But fans who possess such an attitude are in for a very rude awakening.

While Larson hasn’t confirmed it, there have been reports that he took on a two-year deal with Arrow McLaren. He knows that he has a lot to learn, and doing so in 2024 inherently gives him a better opportunity to be a contender in 2025, no matter where he ends up as a rookie.

He's certainly up for the challenge, and he knows it will be just that. The race itself is a much different animal than practice or qualifying.

But perhaps the real rude awakening will come for those who think he can’t handle it simply because he drives stock cars for a living.

DraftKings Sportsbook lists Larson as the fourth favorite to win the Indy 500 at +700.

Full Indy 500 odds can be found here. Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

Indy 500: Rookie driver, resurgent team, and a 'once in a lifetime' experience. Indy 500: Rookie driver, resurgent team, and a 'once in a lifetime' experience. dark. Next

NBC is set to provide live coverage of the 108th running of the Indy 500 beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET this Sunday, May 26, and the green flag is scheduled to fly shortly after 12:30 p.m. ET, weather permitting. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss it!