Kyle Larson will skip All-Star heat races at North Wilkesboro to focus on Indy 500 qualifying

INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Larson will stay at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Indy 500 qualifying Saturday, skipping the NASCAR All-Star Race heat races at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, who will attempt to become the fifth driver to run the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, confirmed his schedule during a media availability Wednesday morning at the Brickyard.

“The timing doesn’t work out,” Larson said about traveling to North Carolina for the heat races, which will be held at 5:20 p.m. ET and 6:15 p.m. ET.

Indy 500 qualifying will begin at noon ET Saturday, and all 34 drivers typically complete their initial four-lap attempt within the first few hours, so Larson theoretically could have enough time to qualify and then get to North Wilkesboro.

But there are two scenarios in which Larson would want to stay: 1) If he is close enough to put his No. 17 Dallara-Chevrolet in the Fast 12, which will battle for the pole position in two sessions Sunday afternoon; 2) if he is among the bottom four drivers, who will square off for the final three spots Sunday in the 108th Indy 500.

Larson said Wednesday that if he qualifies Saturday between 13th and 30th, he will fly back Saturday to Charlotte and spend the night before spending Sunday at North Wilkesboro, where he is the defending winner of the All-Star Race.

Like everything involving Larson’s attempt at making history, the schedule has been a fluid process between Hendrick Motorsports and Arrow McLaren, the IndyCar team that is fielding his car.

“I think we were all kind of involved and I think we all for this week understood that qualifying was most important for Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday,” Larson said. “And then the schedule kind of works out for Sunday where if everything goes really nice here, I still have a little bit of a window to get back for the race. But for the whole two weeks, it's (very) weather dependent, so yeah, I think a priority of mine was for sure qualifying.”

Last year, all four Arrow McLaren entries reached the Fast 12 in qualifying. If Larson were to make the final Fast Six session for the Indy 500 pole, it would begin around 5:25 p.m. ET Sunday, so he could have enough time to reach the All-Star Race, which will start a couple of hours later in North Wilkesboro.

In 2014, Kurt Busch, the last driver to attempt The Double, left for the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway after making one attempt in Indy 500 qualifying. Largely because of a slow pit stop, Busch finished 11th in the All-Star Race and still laments giving up a shot at the Indy 500 pole (he qualified 12th).