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Kyle Larson already having impact at McLaren with his future Indy 500 teammates

Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton, and Dale Jarrett preview Kyle Larson's attempt at the Indy 500-Coke 600 doubleheader in the NASCAR Cup and IndyCar Series, revisit the drivers who have accomplished the feat ahead of Larson, and attempt to predict what a successful race day would look like in both races.

Kyle Larson will attempt his Indy 500 debut next season, but internal (and very informal) lobbying already has happened at Arrow McLaren Racing for an even earlier IndyCar appearance.

While meeting with Larson last month at the GM Racing simulator (literally just down the road from Hendrick Motorsports headquarters), Felix Rosenqvist demonstrated Larson some nuances of driving a single-seater, open-cockpit vehicle while also making a friendly sales pitch.

“It was fun just showing him around the steering wheel,” Rosenqvist said recently at IndyCar’s preseason media event. “He actually got to jump in the car a little bit, and (we were) just talking about the race.

“He sounded very interested, especially in the road courses, actually. I tried to convince him to maybe try to do a road course as well. That would be fun.”

KYLE LARSON AT THE INDY 500: Answers, analysis about his 2024 shot at The Double

There are no other NTT IndyCar Series races scheduled for Larson beyond the 2024 Indy 500, but it’s likely the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion will attend (if not drive) a race this season.

During the Jan. 12 news conference to announce the Indy 500-Coca Cola 600 attempt of “The Double,” McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said Larson likely would be testing before the end of the season and also would attend 2023 IndyCar races to sit in McLaren driver debriefs.

The Aug. 12 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is an obvious candidate because Larson already will be at the Brickyard for the Cup race the next day.

But there are three other IndyCar weekends that aren’t in complete conflict with NASCAR.

The May 13 race at the IMS road course will begin three hours after Cup qualifying ends at Darlington Raceway. IndyCar’s June 18 race at Road America is on the only off weekend in the 2023 Cup schedule. And the World Wide Technology Raceway Gateway race on Aug. 27 would take place the day after NASCAR’s regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.

That presents some opportunities for Larson to bond with his new IndyCar teammates, but he already has made an impact on McLaren’s IndyCar trio of Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward.

Rossi has some history with Larson as they came up through the go-kart ranks together nearly 20 years ago as prodigies from the same region of California.

“It’s just a hell of a story, man,” Rossi said. “It’s really, really cool to be able to be witness, part of someone doing The Double. That’s such an amazing thing for any racing driver, to have the opportunity to do that. Obviously, I think he’s one of the elite racing drivers on the planet.

“He’s going to come in and have his own kind of opinion and experience to bring to the table.”

O’Ward met with Larson at the 2021 F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi (where the Mexican tested a McLaren and gave Larson a ride around the track in a McLaren 720S). Asked about having Larson as a teammate, O’Ward said “that’s sick. I kind of knew about it a little bit, but I think it’s so cool that he’s going to join us next year.

“I think he’s going to really enjoy it. Definitely going to be probably the quickest he’s ever going to go in his life. So I’m sure he will enjoy that. He drives so many different cars. He jumps into whatever opportunity that he wants to either experience or enjoy. The guy can wheel a race car. I’m excited to have him as a teammate. I met him a little bit two years ago in Abu Dhabi when he was there after he won the NASCAR championship. I was so happy to see him do so well on his comeback to NASCAR after the mishap that he had a few years ago.

NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, waits on the grid prior to the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

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“I’m a big fan of him. I feel like I can speak on behalf of the whole team; everybody’s really excited to have him around.”

Larson openly has talked about believing he can win in his debut, and Rosenqvist said the idea isn’t fanciful.

“He’s a great talent,” Rosenqvist said. “Actually I’ve heard a lot of people already betting for him to win the race. That’s kind of the expectation that he has. I think people truly believe he can do that.

“Again, it’s an opportunity to learn from someone that comes from a completely different environment. Already the little chat I had with him, 30 minutes, I felt like I learned something. It will be great to have him around.”