CONCORD, N.C. – The latest step in Kyle Larson’s Indianapolis 500 journey came on Monday when he took to Phoenix Raceway for some on-track time in the No. 17 Chevrolet. The entry is fielded by Arrow McLaren in partnership with Hendrick Motorsports.
The test was initially slated for Tuesday but moved up due to inclement weather in the forecast. Larson estimated that he ran about 40 laps apiece on each of the five sets of tires during the three-to-four-hour test.
SHOP: Get your gear for the #Hendrick1100 now
"I thought it went smooth," Larson said during a media availability earlier this week. "I had a few moments where I was uncomfortable. I thought that was good to feel at 190 (mph) or whatever we're going, compared to going 220 (mph) at Indy. Having the moment. Being surprised by something. I think that was a benefit."
Larson said during the last run he almost spun out, but that the whole experience was a tremendous learning tool that built off his Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis in October. Among the areas Larson worked on during the test was pulling in and out of the box on pit road, experiencing a live pit stop in an INDYCAR, using cockpit adjusters and keeping up with the balance of the car.
RELATED: Previewing the 2024 season for Kyle Larson | Scenes from his Indy 500 prep
"It's always good when you can, as a driver, put yourself in new situations where you're challenging your brain," Larson said. "You're challenging yourself to evolve and learn something new. Figure out the differences or similarities between race cars.
"There's still a ton for me to learn and a ton left out on the table for me to get comfortable. The more reps I get with everything, not just making laps around the track, but in and out of the box, exiting pit road hard, stuff like that is going to be important.
"... I was surprised that it feels a lot like a Next Gen Cup car. The way that the grip of the tire felt like when I turned the wheel to a point to get past the slip of the tire. The sidewall felt really similar to the Cup car. You're just going faster."
RELATED: Kyle Larson spends day getting acclimated for Indy 500
Next up on the INDYCAR side for the 31-year-old driver is an open test back at Indianapolis on April 10-11 before all the on-track activity in May at the Brickyard.
"Once April rolls around, that’s when it’ll get hot and heavy on prep work," Larson said. "I’m so used to being busy, so I don’t think it’s going to feel way different for me. Just more studying and stuff behind the screen of a computer.
"Our Cup team, hopefully, will be in a good spot where we’re fast and all of that. You’re not stressing about that as much as you need to, but I want to do a good job. It's definitely going to take a lot of focus on the INDYCAR side to do a good job. All of these extra laps will help me come the month of May and will help it all go smoothly."
In what is being called the #Hendrick1100, Larson is aiming to run the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 26. HendrickCars.com is sponsoring both efforts and team owner Rick Hendrick will be the car owner for both. This marks the NASCAR Hall of Famer’s first foray into IndyCar ownership. In August, the livery for both cars was unveiled before the Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Road Course.
PHOTOS: See the livery for Kyle Larson's #Hendrick1100 cars
To prepare for his INDYCAR run, Larson has been working with Tony Kanaan, Arrow McLaren’s sporting director, to get used to the characteristics of an IndyCar. Larson and Kannan were victorious teammates in the 2015 Rolex 24 At Daytona with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Brian Campe, who is the technical director for Hendrick Motorsports, was among the representatives for the organization at the test. Campe brings a wealth of knowledge and experience having made the transition himself from INDYCAR to stock cars. He won the Indianapolis 500 as a race engineer in 2015 with Juan Pablo Montoya and was the chief engineer on the 2017 championship-winning team of Josef Newgarden.
"I hope we can utilize him a lot," Larson said. "He's obviously well respected, got a great résumé and is a really smart mechanic/engineer person. You want all the best people in your corner, and he's a really, really smart guy."
Larson is attempting to become the fifth driver to run "The Double." John Andretti, Kurt Busch, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart are the others. Busch is the most recent to do it in 2014, while Stewart (in 2001) is the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles of "The Double." No driver to attempt it has won either leg.
RELATED: Kyle Larson's Indy 500 plans make dreams come true for his dad, himself
The 2024 Cup Series schedule begins in earnest next week at Daytona International Speedway. Larson, who is the 2021 champion in NASCAR’s top series, is the winningest driver in the sport with 17 victories since joining Hendrick Motorsports before the 2021 season. In 2023, the Elk Grove, California, native reached the Championship 4 for the second time in three years en route to finishing as the runner-up in the final season standings.