"There's still a lot left to learn" after Wednesday's Indy 500 test

“There’s still a lot left to learn” after Wednesday’s Indy 500 test

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Despite a rain-shortened day, Larson was still able to complete 47 laps – with 43 logged in the morning’s two-hour session – around the 2.5-mile superspeedway. In the end, he was able to put down a best lap of 226.384 mph to vault the No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet to second on the overall leaderboard among 34 drivers.

“Yeah, it was a good day,” said Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

“We didn’t get a ton of laps or at least laps in a pack or anything like that, but it was still good for the amount that I got in something, just to visually kind of see what that looked like and feel the runs and all of that. It was good.

“I feel like for what I needed to learn and check off my list, I thought it was a successful day, and yeah, hopefully the weather could get better for tomorrow and check some more things off.”

Drafting practice

Since Larson was able to complete the Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last October when he ran 72 laps with a best of 217.898 mph, he was free to immediately participate with learning the nuances of traffic.

“Yeah, so when I was able to go that faster lap or whatever — I think that was my first run on that set of tires and there was a few cars in front of me — I’ve been hearing about how the dirty air is and all that and how bad it is,” Larson said.

“In that run I was like, ‘Man, it doesn’t feel that bad’. It didn’t feel that different from clean air, and I was wide open behind them, and it was no problem.”

However, the feeling changed as the tires began to wear before taking in a learning moment from reigning Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden, who also ended the day fastest at 228.811 mph.

“Then we did some ins and outs and got towards the end of that set of tires,” Larson said.

“I was by myself just kind of running and building lots of understeer by myself, and we stayed out there to kind of allow Newgarden to catch me, and he ended up passing me, and I totally lost the nose. That was pretty crazy kind of feeling that and all of that.

“But I think I could have done a better job, as well, when he passed me timing the air and the run and all that. Once I kind of lost the nose, it was hard to recover from it.

“It was so sensitive that, again, I don’t even know if that’s real, but I would assume that’s more real than me not feeling a balance change in traffic. But yeah, that’s why it’s just kind of hard to learn right now when the conditions are like this, and the packs are smaller and all that. There’s still a lot left to learn. But that’s what I felt in those couple runs.”

Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Kyle Larson, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Penske Entertainment

For Larson, who is attempting ‘The Double’ by running the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day Weekend, there is still a tremendous amount to learn, which he admitted could be hampered more by the cooler conditions not likely relevant to the month of May.

While Larson continues to get familiar with how the car reacts to traffic, tire wear and how various in-car tool adjustments impact handling, the other factor is learning the characteristics of how IndyCar competitors race on track.

“Yeah, it’s very important,” Larson said.

“I think back to when I started racing late model stuff. I had to do a lot of studying on draft — I literally watched no dirt late model races before I raced or got the idea to go race them. See, I had to study and it’s much easier to study a dirt race than it is a 500-mile IndyCar race or whatever. But yeah, I don’t know. I think for me and Indy, I’m probably just going to have to go off of what other — my teammates tell me about other drivers and all that.

“But I haven’t really heard much about other drivers and their aggressiveness or who’s really aggressive, who’s crazy, who’s not, who can you take advantage, who can’t you, stuff like that. I don’t even know if that really translates to an oval.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if like guys are maybe aggressive on a road course or maybe not quite aggressive on an oval. It would be hard for me to watch Long Beach and be like, man, that guy is going to be crazy at Indy.

“I don’t know. I just try to listen and soak up as much of that sort of information as I can, too.”

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