Kyle Larson, Rick Hendrick and the road to the Indianapolis 500

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Rick Hendrick, the winningest team owner in NASCAR history, generally hasn’t looked kindly on his drivers venturing into other racing series.

Perhaps he needed a talent like Kyle Larson to change his mind.

Larson and Hendrick will go where few NASCAR entities have gone, announcing Thursday they will join Arrow McLaren Racing in entering the 2024 Indianapolis 500. The car will be co-owned by Hendrick, prepared by the McLaren team and driven by Larson, who has long had the 500 on his bucket list.

MORE: What’s ahead for Kyle Larson in the Indy 500?

Now, Hendrick says he is more than ready to enjoy the moment at what is typically considered the world’s biggest race.

“I’ll probably feel like I did when I went to Daytona the first time I had an entry there,” Hendrick said. “I looked down the garage lane and saw the Wood Brothers and Junior Johnson and all these guys, and I thought, ‘Man, I shouldn’t be here.’ But being partners with McLaren gives us a tremendous amount of comfort that we’ll have the best equipment and the best preparation. They’re the best.”

Larson also is considered one of the best in his department. He has raced in many series and has been successful in virtually every one, notching wins in such high-level events as the Knoxville Nationals and the Chili Bowl, and dominating short-track events across the country while also tallying wins in the Cup Series, where he won the championship in Hendrick Chevrolets in 2021.

It was also that year, Larson said, that discussion about driving in the Indy 500 evolved into something serious.

“I don’t think there was as much convincing that had to go into it as I thought there might be for Rick,” Larson said. “I remember us talking around Christmastime in 2021. I remember Rick called, and I said, ‘I really want to do the Indy 500 someday.’ He said, ‘OK, let’s do it then.’ I was like, OK. That was simpler than I thought it might be.”

Larson didn’t take any chances, however. He kept the talk alive.

“I didn’t want to lose any momentum,” he said. “I tried to bring it up here and there. I made sure I mentioned it to (Hendrick Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon) a lot to keep a bug in Rick’s ear.”

MORE: Dr. Diandra: Three reasons Kyle Busch will thrive in 2023

Larson has talked of hoping to put his name on the list of drivers who excel in numerous disciplines, including champions like A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. Five hundred miles at Indianapolis will give him a first taste of what success might mean at that level.

“It will be a tall task to go win it, but I think that’s why we’re trying to plan so far ahead,” Larson said. “Adding my name to that winners list would add to my legacy. If I could win the Indy 500 at 31 and still have a lot of racing left to run, it would take a big step toward that.”

The first big step was bringing Hendrick on board.

“The Indy 500 is such a prestige event,” Hendrick said. “I never thought I’d be there. I know it’s going to be special to walk out on the grid next year and be a part of it.”

 

 

NASCAR Sunday schedule at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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It’s race day for the NASCAR Cup Series.

The Clash at the Coliseum will open the 2023 season for NASCAR on Sunday with the featured 150-lap race scheduled for 8 p.m. ET at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The field for the non-points race will be set by a series of heat and last chance races Sunday afternoon. The top five finishers in each of four 25-lap heat races will advance to the feature, and the top three finishers in two 50-lap last chance races will join the grid.

Joey Logano won last year’s Clash as it moved from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to the Coliseum.

The Cup Series regular season is scheduled to begin Feb. 19 with the Daytona 500.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Weather

Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 64 degrees in the afternoon and no chance of rain. It is expected to be sunny with a high of 62 degrees and a 1% chance of rain at the start of the Clash.

Sunday, Feb. 5

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. Sunday – 12:30 a.m. Monday — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 5 – 5:45 p.m. — Four heat races (25 laps; Fox, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 6:10 – 6:35 p.m. — Two last chance qualifying races (50 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8 p.m. — Feature race (150 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.