IndyCar test prompts major Kyle Larson Indy 500 change

Kyle Larson is suddenly the second favorite -- ahead of reigning winner Josef Newgarden -- to win the 2024 Indy 500, behind only last year's polesitter, Alex Palou.
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren-Hendrick, Indy 500, IndyCar
Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren-Hendrick, Indy 500, IndyCar / Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Kyle Larson's odds to win the Indy 500 in 2024 opened at +2500, and they quickly dipped to +2000 at DraftKings Sportsbook. They fluctuated a bit (between +1500 and +2000, depending on where you looked) up until the open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week, when he got his first experience behind the wheel of his No. 17 Arrow McLaren-Hendrick Chevrolet in traffic.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, who has never competed in an IndyCar race, is aiming to become the first driver to run the Memorial Day Double since Kurt Busch in 2014, competing in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day.

Just three drivers had ever done it before Busch, who finished the Indy 500 in sixth place, and only one, Tony Stewart, ever managed to run all 1,100 miles. None of the four drivers won either race.

But after Larson entered the week listed behind all of the usual Indy 500 favorites, all of a sudden there is only one driver he is listed behind (down from 12) to win the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval.

After an abbreviated day of testing on day one of what was scheduled to be a two-day test (but ultimately shortened to one due to rain), Larson is now listed at +700, behind only Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou at +550.

DraftKings is currently offering fans a $150 bonus for betting $5 on any driver, win or lose!

Larson is tied with teammate Pato O'Ward, a former Indy 500 runner-up who led the most laps in last year's race, and listed ahead of Team Penske's Josef Newgarden, the reigning Indy 500 winner who has won five of the six most recent IndyCar oval races.

You can find the full odds listing here.

Kyle Larson suddenly an Indy 500 favorite

Larson posted the second fastest speed during Wednesday's session behind Newgarden, and that was enough to skyrocket him ahead of Newgarden to behind only Palou, last year's polesitter.

He's ahead of every single former Indy 500 winner in the field.

Does anybody else get the feeling that this is just a bit of an overreaction?

Not many teams even bothered to use their speedway cars for the test session. The speeds were also not even close to being representative of the speeds that we can expect to see on Fast Friday and qualifying when the engines are turned up.

Based on what we saw last year, you're probably going to need to be at least three or four miles per hour quicker than Newgarden was over one lap over the course of a four-lap qualifying run just to get into the field of 33, and Newgarden's top lap speed cleared everybody else's on Wednesday by about two and a half miles per hour.

Newgarden did win last year's race after topping the open test (and subsequently qualifying 17th). But if there was ever an Indy 500 speed chart to take with a grain of salt, it's the one that was produced by a rain-shortened test in early April.

That being said, it's hard to completely write off a driver with Larson's talent to win any race he runs. Him winning on Memorial Day Sunday is certainly possible, especially competing for a team as strong as Arrow McLaren.

Who would've guessed that 21-year-old Carlos Munoz, in his first ever IndyCar start, would start second, lead 12 laps, and finish second in the 2013 Indy 500, just two days after finishing fourth in the lower-division Indy Lights race at the same track? And we all saw what Fernando Alonso did in 2017, leading 27 laps before an engine failure cost him a shot at the win in his own IndyCar debut.

But we're talking about an open test, not even an official practice session. Even in practice, there is no way to simulate the intensity of true in-race competition, and when race day rolls around, Larson will still have zero IndyCar experience.

And you certainly have to believe that he took on a two-year program with Arrow McLaren to absorb as much as possible in year number one to give him a better chance in year number two to be a true contender.

As much as social media is already crowning him (and no, that's not an exaggeration in any way, shape, or form if you've been following along the last few days) this year's Indy 500 champion, this isn't the kind of race anybody should expect him to show up and dominate just because he's Kyle Larson.

That said, don't be surprised if/when he becomes the new betting favorite over Palou, based on the current wagering trends.

Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

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Indy 500 practice is officially scheduled to begin just under a month from now on Tuesday, May 14, and qualifying is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19. The race itself is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 26.