NASCAR champion coming out of retirement, joining Hendrick Motorsports

Kevin Harvick is set to stand in for Kyle Larson this weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway, even though he won't actually compete in the NASCAR All-Star Race.
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It was announced at the end of April that Kyle Larson would be staying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to practice for the Indy 500 on Friday, May 17, when the engines are turned up to the max for "Fast Friday" practice ahead of qualifying on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19.

Larson, who competes full-time for Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series, is attempting to become the first driver to run the Memorial Day Double, competing in IndyCar's Indy 500 and then flying to Charlotte Motor Speedway to compete in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600, since Kurt Busch in 2014.

Just four drivers have ever attempted the feat, and only Tony Stewart has run all 1,100 miles, doing so in 2001. Larson's attempt has been dubbed the "Hendrick 1,100", as he is competing for Arrow McLaren through a partnership with Rick Hendrick's team at Indy.

Because Larson plans to remain at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval on Friday to get as much practice time behind the wheel of the No. 17 Chevrolet as possible, it was announced in late April that a replacement driver would have to step in behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet for practice and qualifying at North Wilkesboro Speedway ahead of Sunday's NASCAR All-Star Race, which the 2021 series champion won last year.

Kevin Harvick briefly coming out of NASCAR retirement

That replacement driver is Kevin Harvick, who retired from full-time Cup Series competition after last season. Harvick is a 60-time Cup Series race winner, good for 10th place on the all-time wins list, and the 2014 series champion.

The 48-year-old Bakersfield, California native moved to the Fox Sports broadcast booth for the 2024 season and has been calling races alongside fellow driver analyst and former teammate Clint Bowyer and lead announcer Mike Joy since the preseason Busch Light Clash exhibition race in early February.

Larson is not guaranteed to travel to North Wilkesboro on Saturday, depending on when he qualifies at Indy and how many qualifying attempts he wants or needs to make. However, Harvick is ineligible to compete in Saturday's heat races. Though he is a former series champion and a former All-Star Race winner, he is no longer a full-time driver and did not win a race last year.

Harvick is also ineligible to compete in the All-Star Race itself, though Larson has said that he plans to be at the four-turn, 0.625-mile (1.006-kilometer) North Wilkesboro, North Carolina track for that event, even if it means potentially missing out on Sunday's Top 12 or Firestone Fast Six qualifying shootouts at Indy, should he manage to advance from Saturday.

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The All-Star Race is set to be shown live on Fox Sports 1 from North Wilkesboro Speedway beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 19, with the All-Star Open set to precede it beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss any of the action!