Where is Kyle Larson? Why NASCAR points leader chose Indy 500 over Coca-Cola 600 after ‘double’ effort fails

Kyle Larson heads into one of the biggest races on the NASCAR Cup Series calendar as the leader in the race for the regular-season points crown.

There’s a lot at stake for drivers to claim the regular-season points title. The driver that wins has an automatic playoff entry and earns 15 bonus playoff points. The last time Larson won the points crown, 2021, he went on to win the championship. Martin Truex Jr. (2017) and Kyle Busch (2019) are the other drivers to win both.

Every race matters for stacking points, and it doesn’t take much to fall behind. That’s why it’s particularly surprising to see Larson not on the track in Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600, one of NASCAR’s top races held in the headquarters of the sport.

Larson had been hyped up as potentially running the “double,” racing in both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, a feat that has been pulled off only by four previous drivers.

MORE: Latest updates, highlights from 2024 Indy 500

However, that no longer appears to be in the cards. Why isn’t Larson then at the NASCAR race, the league of which he is a regular driver? Here’s what you need to know.

Where is Kyle Larson?

The Indy 500’s start was delayed due to rain. The race will not begin until 4:44 p.m. ET after the weather delay.

Because of that, Larson will be forced to miss the Coca-Cola 600. His plan had been to get on a helicopter at 4:15 p.m. ET, just after the end of the Indy 500, to fly to the Indianapolis airport and get on a plane to Concord, North Carolina. He would then be helicoptered to the race track and have just over an hour to get ready for the race.

Larson had already said earlier in the day that racing the Indy 500 would be the priority for the Hendrick Motorsports team. He had hoped the Indy 500 would be rained out entirely for Sunday, allowing him to then travel to Charlotte and race the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday and the Indy 500 on Monday, but that did not wind up coming to fruition.

“I think our plan is to keep this as the priority. I think I would be here racing, but I’m actually bummed about that in a way because I want it to just rain out today,” Larson said. “With the rain coming, I would rather the storm be bigger and last here longer, but it looks like it’s going to be in that window where we might be able to get it dry at some point to race today, then obviously that affects things for the 600.”

The decision, Larson noted, was not entirely his. The idea to have Larson race both has been in the making since 2023 and there have been more involved in the process than just the driver. It went all the way up to team owner Rick Hendrick and the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports executives.

“Here’s just been so much time and investment to make this Indy 500 happen and I mean it’s been a build-up for over a year so we need to run it and I want to,” Larson said. “I feel like I’ve got a really good shot to have a good run and potentially win so I want to be here, but I just wish it would all work out and we’d get both races in the full distance, I don’t care if it’s on the same day. I just want to be able to race both races the full distance, so we’ll see.”

The NBC broadcast reported Larson will finish the Coca-Cola 600, even if he does not wind up starting the race.

By deciding to skip the start of the Coca-Cola 600, Larson will now need a waiver to race in the playoffs. NASCAR rules state drivers must start every race to be eligible for the playoffs unless given authorization by NASCAR. Since NASCAR did not authorize his absence, he’ll need to later receive approval.

That step will all but certainly be a formality for the driver who has already won two races and placed in the top five in six different races so far in 2024.

Who will replace Kyle Larson?

Since Larson won’t be at the start of the Coca-Cola 600, he will need to be replaced in the starting lineup. Driving in his place will be Justin Allgaier.

Allgaier typically races in the Xfinity Series, but he’s been practicing and going through qualifying with Hendrick this week in preparation for the possibility he might need to drive in Larson’s place.

Allgaier has finished no higher than eighth in a Cup Series race, which came in 2015 in the Food City 500 at Bristol. Since racing full-time in 2014 and 2015, Allgaier has driven only sporadically in the Cup Series with a race in 2016, one in 2020, two in 2021 and two in 2022.

“I actually fit really well oddly enough in Kyle’s seat. The seatbelts were only the little bit of an issue. I’m a little fluffier than he is, so getting those together wasn’t always the easiest thing,” Allgaier said, per Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass. “But the other part of that is, as Hendrick Motorsports, safety has always been a huge part of their initiative, I mean with the seat side of things and what they do on the race track”

Allgaier may plan to run the entire Coca-Cola 600, but it’s worth noting that Larson could replace him in the car midway through the race if he arrives in time after the Indy 500. Robby Gordon did that to P.J. Jones during his attempt at “The Double” in 2000, but all laps run in the race were credited to Jones.

It isn’t clear whether Larson will still attempt to participate in the double or if his inability to get credit after missing the start of the race will incentivize him to stay in Indianapolis even after the race ends.

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