IndyCar’s showpiece event will feature Blaney’s fellow NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson for the first time this year, who has entered the America’s biggest open-wheel race with a Hendrick-backed, McLaren-run car.
Roger Penske, who scored his 19th victory in the iconic race with Josef Newgarden this year, has welcomed 2021 Cup champion Larson’s participation – who will fly to Charlotte straight after the 500 to race in Charlotte’s NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 that evening.
“We are so excited to see Larson come to the speedway,” said Penske. “I know Rick [Hendrick] talked to me about running Larson and we hadn’t had the success for a couple years… and then, of course, McLaren did and we just applauded that all the way along, and I think that his skill and his fan base in the Midwest is amazing.
“He went out there [to Indianapolis in October] and did his rookie test – bang, bang, bang. Kurt Busch has run there. I think that he comes with a tremendous amount of talent and it’s something that he wants to do.
“It’s interesting. Blaney said to me at some point over the last several weeks that he would like to go to Indy. I was like, ‘Whoa, slow down a little bit.’
“We’re good to have everybody come to Indy, but if we can have the double and really play up Memorial Day at both Charlotte and Indianapolis it’ll be great. The interest from the fan base with [Larson] coming, we can see it already in our ticket sales. He’ll be a great asset to Indianapolis and the 500.”
Photo by: IndyCar Series
Kyle Larson at the rookie orientation program
When asked if he was being serious about racing for Penske at Indy, Blaney replied: “Honestly, it’s something that’s bounced around my mind for a couple years. It’s something I feel like is if you could do the double that’s cool.
“Larson is doing it next year. That’s gonna be great. I’ve poked around that idea with RP for a couple years now and I might have to bring it back up, so we’ll see where that goes.”
Blaney started his career in open-wheel quarter midget racing on ovals, before moving into stock cars. His father Dave was a renowned sprint car and World of Outlaws racer.
“I just feel like there’s not many people that can do the double,” said Blaney of the challenge. “It’s a pretty short list and it would be neat to just do it.
“I have respect for all forms of motorsports, so I think you want to go experience something like that. I think at my age it would be kind of perfect to do it, but I just think the nostalgia of it and to be able to say you ran hopefully 1100 miles in one day on the racetrack is a cool feat.
“It’s cool for Kyle being able to do it and maybe one day I’ll get the privilege too.”