Kyle Larson says heavy crashes led him to hit the brakes on running the Indianapolis 500 for now


INDIANAPOLIS – It’s only a matter of time until Kyle Larson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be at the Indianapolis 500 – perhaps with the latter watching the former behind the wheel.

Larson said he has approval from team owner Chip Ganassi, who fields cars in IndyCar and NASCAR, to run the Greatest Spectacle in Racing when he’s ready.

“They are all waiting on me to say I want to do it,” Larson said Saturday between Cup practices at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I do, but when I see Scott Dixon’s and (Sebastien) Bourdais crash, it makes me think twice about it a little bit. I’ll get the courage up to do it someday.”

Dixon walked away from a terrifying airborne crash during the Indianapolis 500 while Bourdais was sidelined by a fractured hip and pelvis in a qualifying wreck.

Larson might consult with Dixon (“the best in racing,” he said of his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate) but was even more interested with talking to Kurt Busch (who finished sixth in the 2014 Indy 500 as the most recent NASCAR driver to attempt the race and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day).

“Maybe next year or the year after,” Larson said of attempting the Indy 500 (which Kyle Busch said Friday he nearly attempted in 2017). “I want to do it at the right time. I feel like the way IndyCar is, and the politics is of it, it seems like one manufacturer is good one year, and then the next one is good the next year, then the next one the next year…so I want to time it so at the right time to where whatever manufacturer Chip is with is the best at that time (Ganassi switched this season from Chevrolet to Honda).”

Whenever Larson tries an Indy car here, Earnhardt might be watching from the luxury suites of Gasoline Alley. The 14-time most popular driver is making his final start Sunday in the Brickyard, but he hopes to return for the first time in May.

“What I’ll miss the most is the feeling you get when you come into this racetrack,” Earnhardt said of his last start. “The feeling you get when you know what’s happened here, who’s raced here, who’s been here. I was thinking about that in practice going down the back straightaway of all the names that have gone down that straightaway. It’s so overwhelming. I don’t know how you explain it or put that into words. There’s not a lot of tracks that give you that feeling. Daytona, maybe.

(Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

“I’d like to be able to come here after my retirement, especially for the Indy race. I’ve never been to the Indy 500 obviously, so that would be a great experience. It’s an impressive place.”

IMS president Doug Boles presented Earnhardt with a farewell gift Saturday, the No. 8 from the track’s former scoring pylon. Earnhardt drove either the No. 8 or 88 in every start at Indy, and his late father (who won NASCAR’s second race at Indianapolis in 1995) started and finished eighth in his final start here in 2000.

Earnhardt Jr.’s best finish in 16 Indy starts was fourth in 2012, his only top five on the 2.5-mile oval.

It would be awesome to win one of the big, key races in the season,” he said. “It’s a race that I think all the drivers feel is very important to our series and a big milestone in your career. Ranks right up there close to the Daytona 500 in importance and pride to be able to come away with a win at this place. Considering how our season has gone, it’d right all the wrongs. We’d forget all the struggles we had to get a big win like that.”


NASCAR Saturday schedule at Circuit of the Americas


Saturday will be a busy day at Circuit of the Americas, as all three national series are on the track.

Cup will qualify ahead of the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series races.

The forecast Saturday calls for sunny conditions and no chance of rain all day. The high is expected to be 69 degrees during Cup qualifying, 76 degrees at the start of the Truck race and 81 degrees for the start of the Xfinity race.

Zane Smith looks to win his second consecutive Truck race at the road course in Austin, Texas. AJ Allmendinger seeks his second consecutive Xfinity win at COTA.

Saturday, March 25

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m.  — Truck Series
  • 2 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.