Kyle Larson Impresses Tony Kanaan at Indy 500 Rookie Orientation

Jackson Wheeler
6 Min Read


  • The Indy 500 rookie orientation program consists of three phases. In the first phase, Larson was required to run 10 consecutive laps between 205-210 mph.
  • The second phase is 15 laps 210-215 mph and then 15 laps faster than 215 mph.
  • Kanaan believes Larson’s biggest challenge will be learning to anticipate situations 300 to 400 feet in front of him.

Kyle Larson breezed through his Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation program with a performance that surpassed 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan when he went through a refresher course last year.

“Basically, you have to be really in the range,” Kanan, the sporting director for Arrow McLaren and Larson’s coach, explained on the Sirius XM NASCAR radio show Speedway. “If you’re a little bit above or a little bit below, the lap doesn’t count. I missed a few and he didn’t miss none of them. So, he was actually, I would say, a lot easier than I was.”

The rookie orientation program consists of three phases. In the first phase, Larson was required to run 10 consecutive laps between 205-210 mph. The second phase is 15 laps 210-215 mph and then 15 laps faster than 215 mph. Larson started the program at 11 a.m. ET and finished the first phase at 11:43 a.m. He completed the second phase at 12:25 p.m. and the final one at 1:18 p.m.

kyle larson indy 500 rookie orientation

Kyle Larson is preparing for his first IndyCar start at the 2024 Indianapolis 500.

Penske Entertainment/Walt Kuhn

“You cannot really limit the speed to be able to match the speed that they want,” Kanaan says. “We put an average speed on his dash. Basically, he had to hit the target. At the end we turned him loose.”

Kanaan says he is organizing an off-season test for Larson. Then there will be a two-day open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in April and a week of testing, six hours a day, in May prior to the 2024 Indianapolis 500.

“He probably will be more prepared than I was the last three years doing one offs, that’s for sure,” Kanaan says.

Kanaan believes Larson’s biggest challenge will be learning to anticipate situations 300 to 400 feet in front of him.

“For him to try to plan a pass, to make a pass, or not to get passed during the race, it’s going to be all about that,” Kanaan explains. “You cannot drive underneath the car because we have the wings, so we need the downforce, the timing of the passing and everything, that could be the biggest challenge he’s going to have.”

Larson said the car’s speed and grip didn’t feel “scarier than what I thought it might.” However, he said he didn’t expect the way the car wanted to pull to the left and he had to “fight it back to the right” on the straightaways. The weight of the wheel also surprised him.

“A lot lighter than the simulator, but still a little heavier than what I expected,” Larson says. “I think more of the pit road side of things is where I’ll have to work more. The steering is so slow, you have to turn so far getting in and out. Getting used to the steering at the slower speeds will be something to get used to.

“Then maximizing the apron, braking for pit road, stuff like that, is stuff I’ll have to really focus on and work on, maximizing potential.”

This isn’t the first time Larson and Kanaan have worked together. In 2015 they teamed with Jamie McMurray and Scott Dixon at Ganassi Racing to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Larson is the fifth driver to commit to the double, competing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. John Andretti was the first to do the double on May 29, 1994. He finished 10th in a Lola fielded by A.J. Foyt Enterprises and 36th in the Coca-Cola 600 in a Chevrolet owned by Billy Hagan.

Kurt Busch was the most recent driver to execute the double. He finished 26th in the 2014 Indy 500 driving an Andretti Autosport Honda and 40th in the Coca-Cola 600 in his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

Robby Gordon has done the double on five occasions and Tony Stewart twice.

Stewart remains the only driver to complete both races, driving 1,100 miles in a single day. In 1999, he finished ninth in the Indy 500 in a Tri-Star Motorsports entry and fourth in the Coca-Cola 600 in a Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac. Two years later he placed sixth at Indianapolis in a Chip Ganassi Racing entry and third at Charlotte, once again in a JGR Pontiac.

Prior to the Memorial Day races occurring on the same day, which began in 1974, it was not uncommon for NASCAR drivers to compete in Charlotte’s 600-mile race and the Indianapolis 500. In 1970 Donnie Allison won the 600-mile race on May 24 and earned Indy 500 rookie honors with a fourth-place finish in a Foyt-Greer Racing Eagle 70-Ford on May 30.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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