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IndyCar Indianapolis 500

Kanaan only an option for Indy 500 if Larson is forced to withdraw

Arrow McLaren will only be allowed to call upon Tony Kanaan in a worst-case scenario that would see Kyle Larson withdraw from competing in the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Tony Kanaan, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Larson is making his maiden attempt in the Indy 500 as part of ‘the double’ on Memorial Day Weekend that includes running the 600-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26. He is driving the Chevrolet-powered No. 17 that is co-entered by Arrow McLaren and Rick Hendrick.

With the complications of weather, such as the rain that limited Tuesday’s opening practice for the Indy 500 to 23 minutes of on-track running, back up plans have been a talking point when it comes to Larson’s logistics.

In the event of a complication, Larson, the current Cup Series championship leader, would hand the duties off to 2013 Indy 500 winner Kanaan.

“Yeah, hopefully that doesn’t arise,” said Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

“But I’m not sure who the one is to make that call. I’m sure there’s a window of time that when it gets to a certain point I have to leave because the Coca-Cola 600 is the priority that weekend and chasing another NASCAR Cup Series championship is the priority.

“Yeah, I just hope that doesn’t come about. Tony Kanaan is there for reserve, if something like that does happen, to fill in for the (Indy) 500. But yeah, just pray that doesn’t happen.”

Kyle Larson, McLaren-Hendrick Chevrolet

Kyle Larson, McLaren-Hendrick Chevrolet

Photo by: Penske Entertainment

However, there is a complication as Kanaan, who already has a helmet and firesuit ready, is not being allowed to do his refresher of the last two phases if Larson remains an entrant to this year’s edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

An IndyCar representative shared with Motorsport.com that Kanaan coming in as a relief driver after ‘x’ number of laps should Larson need to leave is not an option.

However, a scenario the series faced recently was brought up as a comparable option.

In 2021, Jack Harvey was injured in a practice crash at Texas while driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Despite being out of the car for several months, Santino Ferrucci showed up with helmet in hand and was approved to replace Harvey after he was withdrawn from the race. Ferrucci was allowed a brief special session to get acclimated ahead of the race before being required to start from the back of the 27-car field before going on to finish ninth.

The unique view on the current stance by IndyCar is that relief drivers were allowed at one point, notably the 2004 Indy 500. In that event, Jacque Lazier ran a car for AJ Foyt Racing for one day ahead of qualifying before the team opted out. However, Lazier became the relief driver for Robby Gordon, who was pulling double-duty with the Cup race, after rain delayed the start of the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon, driving for his own team in the Indy 500, was only able to complete 27 laps before handing off to Lazier and leaving for Charlotte.

Larson, the fifth driver to attempt ‘the double’ along John Andretti, Kurt Busch, Gordon and Tony Stewart, is left waiting on Mother Nature on what transpires in the days ahead.

For now, though, the focus is simply taking in everything that comes with the competing in an Indy car at the Speedway.

“I get excited about learning new things and being presented a new challenge, which an Indy car is a new challenge,” Larson said.

“Learning that style of racing a little bit and seeing what translates some. Racing against other drivers that I’ve watched on TV for quite a while or whatever; that’s what I get most excited about.

“But mostly, just learning and seeing how quickly you can learn and if you can be competitive. I think if you can do a good job with all of that, then all the other stuff that would be seen as more important on the result end of things would be great.

“I’m just excited to learn something new.”

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