Kyle Larson will hit ‘em all, from Lakeside to NASCAR Kansas Speedway to Indy 500

Past NASCAR champion Kyle Larson is known for racing anything on wheels.

Larson, who competes in about 100 races a year across various series, is taking it to a whole new level this year, including his first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May.

The uber-competitive Larson last year co-founded Kubota High Limit Racing, a national series featuring high-powered 410 sprint cars. He will race at Lakeside Speedway on Friday and Saturday nights in addition to his day job of driving the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet in Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Larson and five-time World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet began the short-track series with an inaugural 12-race midweek schedule (with Larson winning the championship) last year and then acquired the All-Star Circuit of Champions.

They expanded it to a 60-race national schedule for 2024 across 19 states, “making it bigger, national with much-higher purses,’’ Larson said.

“My main thought was to help grow the sport, get in front of more eyes, and allow the teams and drivers to make more money to sustain a lifestyle,” he said of a series that will pay about $5 million in prize money this year.

Larson is no stranger to Lakeside. He watched several shows at the 4/10 mile-dirt track down the road from Kansas Speedway during the past few years when in town for Cup competition, and last year, for the first time, he raced there.

“It was good to get there and experience it,” Larson said. “The crowd was amazing, the atmosphere was great, and it will be great to be paired with NASCAR weekend.”

Former and current NASCAR drivers often compete at Lakeside. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chase Briscoe raced in the sprint car event in Texas last month, and Larson expects a high car count to vie for the $50,000 top prize, one of the largest of the season.

Shortly after the races in Kansas, Larson will join a short list of NASCAR drivers who have attempted the Memorial Day weekend double of racing in the Indianapolis 500 in the morning of May 26 followed by jetting to Charlotte, N.C., for the evening Coca-Cola 600.

Kurt Busch was the last to try, finishing a respectable sixth in the 2014 Indy race but 40th at Charlotte when his engine blew.

Larson, who won a NASCAR Cup championship in 2021 and was runner-up to Ryan Blaney last year, posted a fastest lap of 226.384 mph in a recent Indy test in the Arrow McLaren/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Larson said he is gaining more confidence in the Indy car “every time I get in the car and try to figure things out.”

That experience figures to be nothing but helpful.

“It’s a big event,” he said, “the biggest race in the world, and it’s awesome to get an opportunity to compete in it. Going into the Indy car, it’s trying to remember and memorize what each button off the steering wheel or in the cockpit does.

“Everything in the stock car is pretty basic, but the Indy car has a lot more stuff in it. Remembering is tricky sometimes, but overall, driving the car hasn’t felt way different.”

Larson, who has 24 career NASCAR Cup wins, won’t discount his chances at winning at Indianapolis.

“I wouldn’t have signed up to do it if I didn’t think that I could. (win),” said Larson, 31. ”But I’m not also sitting here saying I’m going to win the Indy 500. I could run worse than 20th all race long and not be surprised at all. It would be hard for anybody to just come into a foreign type of race car, foreign race procedures and everything that comes along with it and win.

“I know I’m with a great team. I know I’ve got a couple weeks of practice that will translate some to the race. I’ve got great teammates. I have Tony Kanaan to talk to, a guy who has won the race.”

Larson knows anything can happen at Indy.

“I really just want to finish the laps, enjoy the experience, gain the experience,” he said. “No matter what the result is, I’m going to come out of it a better, more well-rounded driver.

“Just getting to see how a different-form motorsport operates: how their prep work is, driving a different car, getting used to pulling the trigger and passing somebody at 220 miles an hour into turn one ... There’s the opportunity for me to cross through a different threshold of confidence after that.“

NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson leads the field into the first corner during the April 14 NASCAR Cup Series AutoTrader EchoPark 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports
NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson leads the field into the first corner during the April 14 NASCAR Cup Series AutoTrader EchoPark 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who finished 28th in his lone Indianapolis 500 in 2022, knows the challenge Larson is facing.

“It’s the stress and time commitment,” said Johnson, a NASCAR Hall of Famer. “I was really surprised how much time is required to get through the month of May — which is just a couple of weeks of May at the track in Indy itself.

“Thankfully, the NASCAR schedule is much more relaxed. He has a weekend of (Cup) racing before as well. I think travel and being able to spend the time that he would want in Indy — that is going to be compromised a bit.”

Indeed, Larson will face a week of practice at Indianapolis during the week of May 14, qualifying on May 18-19, competing in NASCAR’s All-Star race in North Wilkesboro, N.C. on the night of May 19 before returning to Indianapolis for more practice sessions leading to the race.

“Thankfully, you do get a fair number of laps with the open test session, and the way the two weeks unfold, you can get a sense for it,“ Johnson said of a NASCAR driver adjusting to the Indy car. “If you are able to maintain track position and keep up front … I think he will have a really good day. Kurt’s experience really showed that. If you keep clean air on the car, I think it helps the lack of experience that a stock car driver would have going in.

“But come race day, man, you don’t want to put it in the fence. By the way, that wall hurts in an IndyCar … there really are consequences for your mistakes made in an IndyCar.”

Already having clinched a spot in the NASCAR postseason by virtue of his early-season win at Las Vegas has lightened the burden on Larson, who also is the Cup series points leader after a second-place finish at Dover last weekend.

Larson won at Kansas from the pole en route to his 2021 Cup championship and has finished in the top eight in his last five starts there, including second-place finishes in the last two spring races.

“Kansas is probably one of my favorite tracks, possibly in the top five that we go to,” said Larson, who ranked Bristol and Homestead ahead of Kansas followed by Las Vegas and Dover. ‘‘We’re always really fast there.

“I enjoy racing there, because you have a lot of options to move around and find different lanes and grip. It’s an easier track to pass, typically. I hope to get a win in the Next Gen car We’ve been fast there, but have gotten beat late in the races just about every time the last couple of years.”

This week’s Kansas Speedway schedule


9 a.m.: Parking lots open

9 a.m.-2 p.m.: ARCA Menards Series open practice

7-9:30 p.m.: Campers concert, featuring Villains Dance


9 a.m.: Parking lots and gates open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: ARCA Tide 150 practice

10:10-10:30 a.m.: Tide 150 qualifying

11:05-11:35 a.m.: Craftsman Trucks practice

11:35 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Craftsman Trucks qualifying

1 p.m.: ARCA Mendards Series Tide 150 (FSN)

4:05-4:50 p.m.: NASCAR Cup practice

4:50-6 p.m.: NASCAR Cup qualifying

7 p.m.: NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Heart of America 200 (FSN)

9-11 p.m.: Campers concert, featuring Cantaloupe City


8 a.m.: Parking lots open

9 a.m.: Gates open

1:30 p.m.: Driver Introductions

2 p.m.: NASCAR Cup AdventHealth 400 (FSN)