How Kyle Larson’s dream Indy 500-Coca-Cola 600 weekend turned into a nightmare

Kyle Larson's attempt at Double Duty didn't go as he hoped but the American is set to try again in 2025

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Kyle Larson‘s “double duty” of racing both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day unfortunately turned out to be just a single duty. Although he successfully completed the former and hurried onto a plane to get to Charlotte Motor Speedway, the highly anticipated campaign was cut short as rain prompted NASCAR to end the 600 before he ever had a chance to strap into his Cup car.

The Indy 500 was delayed by weather that included lightning strikes, pushing it back by four hours. With the blessing of his NASCAR team Hendrick Motorsports, Larson opted to stay in Indianapolis while Justin Allgaier was entrusted with his #5 Camaro.

Although NASCAR had delayed last Sunday’s All-Star Race by thirty minutes to let Larson arrive at North Wilkesboro from Indy 500 qualifying, they could only hold the points-paying Coke 600 for so long. Allgaier took the green flag at Charlotte approximately an hour and a half after Larson did the same at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Once the 500 came to an end, Larson finishing 18th after being set back by a speeding penalty, he got out of his IndyCar then rushed to a helicopter in the IMS infield to take him to Indianapolis International Airport, where he boarded his jet bound for Concord three miles away from CMS. By the time he landed, the 600 had crossed Lap 247 of 400 and Allgaier was running 13th.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature seemed to follow him no matter where he went. Upon his arrival in Charlotte, she quite literally rained on his parade yet again as the 600 was stopped due to weather. Had it cleared up, Larson would have simply taken over the #5 from Allgaier once the race resumed. This ultimately did not come to fruition as NASCAR, fearing the forecast meant such a long race would continue past 1 AM, decided to end the event two hours after Larson’s landing without him ever turning a lap.

Instead of having a chance to join Tony Stewart as the only drivers to complete all 1,100 miles of Double Duty, Larson is instead part of company that came up short including John Andretti, Kurt Busch, Robby Gordon, and Davy Jones.

To add insult to injury, Larson also lost the Cup Series points lead and falls to third in the standings. NASCAR has not announced if he will receive a waiver to remain eligible for the playoffs; drivers must enter every race in the regular season to maintain eligibility, though waivers may be granted in certain circumstances like injury or suspension.

“What I thought could be one of the best days of my life quickly turned into one of the most disappointing ones I’ve ever experienced,” wrote Larson on social media the day after.

“I hate it for Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, HAG (Hendrick Automotive Group), Hendrick Motorsports, everyone a part of the 5 team, everyone on the 17 indycar for speeding, my family, my friends, my fans, and the documentary crew that has followed along the journey the past 8 months.

“So much time, money, and effort went into this experience and it just kills me to have it all end the way it did. I feel like I let so many people down. We knew all along weather could throw a wrench into things but seeing it come to reality is a horrible feeling.

“Up until Sunday it was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. I can’t describe how appreciative I am of everyone’s support of me to live out a dream. I hope it’s not the last opportunity I have to try the Double but if it is I guess it was memorable.”

Fortunately for Larson, 2024 will not be his only attempt at Double Duty if he wishes. His contract with Arrow McLaren is a two-year deal, meaning he can try again in 2025.

Allgaier performed admirably in relief

Allgaier was selected as Larson’s backup driver as both are roughly the same height (5’6″, or 167.64 cm tall), which allowed Hendrick Motorsports to simply place Allgaier into the cockpit without having to adjust the driver’s seat too much. He also races for Hendrick’s Xfinity Series satellite JR Motorsports, has prior Cup Series experience that includes two Coca-Cola 600s, and he was leading Saturday’s Xfinity race at Charlotte before being taken out in a crash.

After starting at the rear due to the driver change (Larson had qualified 10th), Allgaier quickly fell a lap down after being overtaken by race leader Ty Gibbs, who was coincidentally involved in the wreck that eliminated him on Saturday. Slowly working his way through the field, he finished Stage 1 in 26th.

“Starting the race, I was pretty disappointed in myself just getting acclimated. Kyle’s seat is so different from what I run and the steering,” Allgaier explained. “Cliff Daniels (crew chief) did an amazing job to get me up to speed. We were able to look at the SMT and get the car where I needed to be at, and then just balance.

“We worked on the balance throughout the course of the run there. To be able to unlap myself was probably the highlight of the night, to pass a Hendrick Motorsports team-mate, to pass Ty, which I have a lot of respect for on the race track, was really, really nice, and it just kind of helped elevate the way the race went.”

He cracked the top 20 by Lap 164, and maintained his position in the early twenties after having to survive a series of cautions and restarts during the closing laps of Stage 2.

The 600 was only Allgaier’s third race in the Next Gen car and first at an intermediate track. His first was the 2022 Bristol Dirt Race where he crashed out followed by the YellaWood 500 at Talladega later that year. His unfamiliarity with the car compared to the Xfinity Series‘ Camaro certainly contributed as he tried to get used to his new surroundings, and this was evident on restarts, though the #5 being one of the top cars in the Cup Series made things a little more tolerable.

“Restarts were definitely tough just with the aero. You guys all hear about aero blocking and aero wash and all those things every week from all the Cup drivers. You don’t need to hear it from me,” Allgaier continued. “But as somebody coming from the Xfinity Series, it was pretty wild how much different it was in traffic. To be able to kind of make our way up through there, we had great strategy and got ourselves up into 13th or whatever and felt like there was some good potential to even go further. I told Cliff on the radio, ‘I feel like Kyle getting here and getting in the car, even having to start in the back, I feel like he’s going to be able to slice through traffic.’ This HendrickCars.com Camaro was so good. You get opportunities very rarely in life to drive something that’s that good, and it truly was that.

“It was really, really special and something that I’ll take for a number of years as I walk away that was a good opportunity.”

Had Larson been able to take over, Allgaier would still be credited with the finish as he started the race, though neither would receive points as Allgaier is registered for the Xfinity championship.

Kyle Larson is the reason that we’re all here,” Allgaier stated. “The Double is so important. Me driving this car, my only job was keep the fenders on it, keep it as far forward as we can to make sure that we have a great opportunity for Kyle to get back in it, and if it was five laps to go or rain delayed or if it was on Lap 5, my job was to make sure that I handed him over a clean race car and try to adjust the balance to where he’ll be good. I feel like we did that. […]

“I’m so pumped that he got the 500 in. I was bummed that I couldn’t watch it. You’re in the car and I’m asking Cliff—I think Cliff got tired of me asking how Kyle did at Indy, but it was important for me to know. I wanted to know where he was at and how close he was to making it.”

Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen is Total-Motorsport.com's resident NASCAR aficionado and is also the off-road reporter for The Checkered Flag.
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