June 16, 2024

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Kyle Larson is frustrated after the first three days of Indy 500 practice

Kyle Larson is frustrated after the first three days of Indy 500 practice

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INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Kanaan has been here 22 times as a driver. He knows the unpredictability of spring weather in central Indiana and the extreme frustration it can bring. He knows very well that an eight-hour practice can quickly turn into just three or four hours in pit lane and a few dozen laps.

That’s why Kanaan is the perfect mentor for Kyle Larson, the latest “dual” competitor who’s accustomed to winning almost any car he’s in and who may already have the chops to win his first Indianapolis 500.

Three days into his first week of training for the 500m, Larson’s frustrations over the lack of time on the track, thanks to rain, an engine change and a poor roll of the dice when devising Thursday’s running plan, have clearly come to the fore. In what would have amounted to 19 hours of open track when this week’s practice schedule was first released, Larson logged just 85 laps over three days of 500 practice.

Larson and the No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevy crew ran just 29 laps Thursday, when splashes rarely lead to a pause in track time, and failed to meet the expectations of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

“I thought the weather was going to be good and we were going to do a lot of laps today, and everyone was turning laps except me,” Larson said from the pitlane after covering just 11 laps during Thursday’s five-hour, eight-race race. 500 hours of practice. At the time, Larson’s best lap since that morning ranked last among the 34 cars. “It was boring and a bit frustrating.

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“I honestly just want to get out there and do some laps and spend some time. I’m just going back to my motorhome to relax, lay on the couch and just wait. These days are very long, but hopefully everything will go ‘as planned’ for us and our team, and we can actually get started on Working and learning things and allowing me to learn more as well.”

Minutes after Larsson finished the 25thy On the timing charts (22.805 mph) On the eve of a fast Friday that could suffer from rain, IndyStar asked Kanaan, Arrow McLaren’s sporting director, about Larsson’s perpetual frustrations that had come up in his interview on Peacock that afternoon, immediately before. The driver went and did 11 more laps, pulling himself up from the bottom of the timing charts.

Kanaan said seeing and hearing Larson seething hours earlier was the least surprising part of his day — having survived watching the No. 17 crew do an engine change in the morning, showing up in the pitlane to run in a group with no one interested in playing, and then having to had to return to the garage to switch to the qualifying setup instead – while Larson spent hour after hour waiting idle.

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“We knew it was going to happen,” Kanaan said of Larson’s frustrations. “When you say to a driver: ‘You have eight hours of training,’ and it’s not actually eight hours, because there’s rain and two crashes, and suddenly it turns into three, and you have pressure from people outside saying ‘Why aren’t you running?’ It’s actually quite common.” .

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“I remember my first few years here, and that’s the thing my team stressed to me. Because that’s how you get caught and how you break down.

Thursday saw nearly six hours of on-track action, with two drivers falling victim to small mistakes that left them with massive repair tasks and a wider gap to bridge in order to find their way to the top by the end of the qualifying weekend. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie – like Chip Ganassi Racing’s Linus Lundqvist – or a 500 winner – like Andretti Global’s Marcus Ericsson. IMS didn’t care much.

Larson simply not crashing likely wouldn’t be considered a notable success in the daily notes of a Cup start, but if nothing else, Kanaan said, it’s a sign that the 500 starters are listening.

“What I try to explain to him is what is quality running, and what is running for your head only. If you do 30 laps alone with two cars on track, you won’t learn anything,” Kanaan said. “But it’s understandable. Tomorrow is a quick Friday, and you don’t know what to expect, and I think there are more people spoiling it than just him.

“As a driver, you always think you’re behind. That’s the biggest challenge, and I have to explain that to him, but people don’t realize it until you experience it. Even guys who are more confident like him, they wonder: ‘Why is this place like that?’” It’s crazy how vulnerable you can be. You could suddenly become him.

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As the hours ticked by Thursday and Larson sat at the bottom of the timing sheets with less than a dozen laps over the course of five hours – nothing more than a scheduled engine change and an unlucky running plan – social media began to display murmurs of us wondering if we had been in for a disaster. Another in a McLaren 500 (Fernando Alonso, circa 2019).

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When asked if he thought strangers’ fears had any merit, Kanaan did not scoff at the idea. There are no two ways around it. The first three days of Larson’s 500th practice didn’t go exactly according to plan. But again, nothing happens at all. It’s how the driver, crew chief, mechanics and engineers respond to unpredictability, which plays a key role in organizing the grid.

The car is the right color. The steering wheel is locked. So far, there have been no gear ratio issues or confusion between inches and centimeters that have befallen the team. Kanaan emphasizes that there is nothing to worry about in these three days. Meanwhile, IMS’s fortunes could change quickly. Positivity only gets you so far. During the next 48 hours, realism, honesty and calm will be more important than forced smiles.

“We have two very strong cars with Pato (Oward) and (Alexander) Rossi, and we have the data to prove it. We are not worried. Now, will we live up to the expectations of (Larson) wanting to be in the top nine? Kanaan said: I don’t know.” “In terms of speed, I’m not worried. But that doesn’t matter either. On Friday, we’ll ramp up, we’ll see, we might worry about that again, and then you’ll get to the playoffs, and you never know.

“Anything can happen, good or bad, both for us and for the other 33 cars as well.”