One backup plan isn't enough as a dark cloud hangs over Kyle Larson's Indy-NASCAR double

INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Larson typically isn’t one to fret about what he can’t control, but this week the weather has him a bit concerned.

Larson is trying to become the fifth driver to race in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room in his schedule and the forecast is not on his side.

“You can have all these plans and backup plans and backup plans for the backup plan,” Larson said Thursday. “But you just can't really do anything or react until it's kind of the moment. That’s what's a little bit stressful.”

As of Thursday, the Sunday forecast included thunderstorms with a nearly 90% chance of rain.

Larson has about 3 ½ hours built into his schedule from the time of the planned green flag at Indy until his helicopter is supposed to be in the air to take him from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the airport for his private flight to Charlotte, North Carolina. The past 10 500s have ranged from 2 hours 37 minutes to 3:13 of running time.

“Yeah, it doesn't look too promising for Indy on Sunday, but I think for me where I sit, if it's going to rain, I hope it rains all day,” Larson said. “That way it can just get pushed to Monday or something, and then Charlotte is not going to rain, I just hope it doesn't rain, and we can get it in on Sunday night and then come here Monday.”

The 500 been postponed or shortened because of rain 12 times in 107 runnings. The last postponement came in 1997, when it was started on Monday and finished Tuesday.

Asked what would happen if the 500 started late enough that it couldn’t finish before he needed to leave for Charlotte, Larson said he didn’t know.

“I think that’s all kind of game time decisions and maybe decisions out of my control,” Larson said. “Yeah, I think the plan right now is hopefully everything just gets going as scheduled and we don't have to worry about that.”

By rule, the 2021 Cup Series champion would be required to race the Coca-Cola 600 in order to remain eligible for the title, although it’s conceivable NASCAR would waive that rule given the attention Larson’s quest has attracted.

Four-time winner Helio Castroneves is the only Brazilian in this year's Indianapolis 500 field.
Four-time winner Helio Castroneves is the only Brazilian in this year's Indianapolis 500 field.

Where have IndyCar’s Brazilians gone?

When he won the Indianapolis 500 in his first try 23 years ago, Helio Castroneves was one of five drivers from Brazil in the race, and all finished in the top 10.

With Tony Kanaan having retired after last year, Castroneves is the only Brazilian in the field, and with Caio Collet the only Brazilian in the Indy NXT steppingstone series, the pipeline is all but dry.

“I think the stock car in Brazil became a very successful series,” said Castroneves, one of four four-time Indy winners. “Open-wheel in Brazil, kind of like slowed down a lot. For those Formula 1 has become very popular obviously the last few years, and the ones, the generation now, looking to go that direction.

“Again, Formula 1 is big politics, as we know. Some of them are turning around. I would say because of that we have a little bit of a lack (of Brazilians in open-wheel racing). Plus we don't have a race in Brazil like we used to do as well.”

Indy cars raced in Rio de Janeiro from 1996-2000 under CART sanction and in São Paulo from 2010-13 as part of the IndyCar Series.

Castroneves turned 49 this month. The 500 is his only scheduled race. Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of 1989 and ’93 Indy winner, is of Brazilian heritage but considers Miami his hometown.

The last time the 500 included a Brazilian other than Castroneves or Kanaan in the field was 2019, the second of Matheus Leist’s two seasons.

Will Power says what?

Two-time IndyCar Series champion and 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power has a dry sense of humor, but it a slip about the wet that got people’s attention on media day.

“It’s about time we got that,” Power said of a rainout. “I mean, on the law of averages it’s going to happen at some point. Looking like that’s going to be Sunday. I hope not. I hope we just get it in.”

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: NASCAR's Kyle Larson wary of rain in Indianapolis 500 forecast