IndyCar: Kyle Larson might not compete in the Indy 500

Kyle Larson's priority, in the event of a schedule change on Memorial Day Weekend, is to run the Coca-Cola 600 instead of the Indy 500.
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Arrow McLaren, Indy 500, IndyCar
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Arrow McLaren, Indy 500, IndyCar / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Larson is attempting to become just the fifth driver to run the Memorial Day Double, first by competing in IndyCar's Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then by competing in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It hasn't been done since Kurt Busch in 2014, and only one driver, Tony Stewart, has ever successfully run all 1,100 miles, doing so in 2001.

With Larson competing full-time for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series and with Rick Hendrick's team partnering with Arrow McLaren to make his No. 17 McLaren-Hendrick Chevrolet a reality on the IndyCar side, Larson's Memorial Day Double effort is officially dubbed the "Hendrick 1,100".

But what happens if weather-related schedule changes alter 500 or 600 of those 1,100 miles?

The Indy 500 is scheduled to go green shortly after 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 26, and the Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled to go green shortly after 6:00 p.m. ET. On paper, with the Indy 500 scheduled to be a 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval, there shouldn't be an issue.

But should weather affect the schedule, which is entirely possible, that could change.

No Indy 500 has been postponed since 1997, and no Indy 500 has been shortened since 2007. Both factoids are quite impressive, given the unpredictability of Indiana weather in May, plus the fact that rain usually washes out at least one practice session leading up to the race. The Coca-Cola 600, on the other hand, was postponed to Monday just last year.

According to The Weather Channel, there is currently a 88% chance of PM thunderstorms in Speedway on Sunday, May 26. Of course, this will probably change 88 times from now until then, and Indy 500s have been run, on time, without a drop of rain with far worse forecasts in the last decade alone.

But there are never any guarantees.

Larson has reportedly made clear that, should there end up being a schedule conflict, the Coca-Cola 600 is his priority, which is understandable considering the fact that, despite the Indy 500 being the biggest race in the world and the biggest single-day sporting event in general, he is indeed still a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver.

Larson has already qualified for the Indy 500, and he did so with a fifth place effort. So the No. 17 Chevrolet is locked into the field and thus eligible for a replacement driver.

With Callum Ilott set to drive the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet that was once set to be driven by David Malukas, he is obviously not in contention to replace Larson if Larson has to miss the race. Theo Pourchaire, who is set to run the rest of the 2024 IndyCar season behind the wheel of the car, is also not a possibility, given his lack of superspeedway testing experience.

That puts Tony Kanaan, who has already returned for three additional Indy 500s after his initial "Last Lap" tour in 2020, in the frame as Larson's backup. He currently holds an advisory role within the team after competing in the race for the organization last year,

It was said earlier this year that, amid Malukas' continued injury-related absence (before he was ultimately released), Kanaan was technically a last resort to run the No. 6 Chevrolet in prior races as well.

Kanaan did not refute the rumors about a possible Indy 500 return. In fact, he really poured more fuel on the fire before it was ultimately confirmed that he is indeed Larson's backup driver.

Perhaps a scenario will arise in which Kanaan gets to show the world whether or not that fire still burns. However, even if Larson can't compete, not even a Kanaan return is guaranteed.

Kanaan would need to complete a veteran refresher course to be allowed to compete, and there is no guarantee that he will even be allowed do to that. As a result, Dale Coyne Racing's Nolan Siegel, the only driver bumped out of the field this past weekend, could also reportedly come into play.

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The 108th running of the Indy 500 is set to be shown live on NBC beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 26. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!