NASCAR's Kyle Larson and F1 Driver Verstappen in Discussion as the Best Drivers in the World - Autoblog - Latest Global News

NASCAR’s Kyle Larson and F1 Driver Verstappen in Discussion as the Best Drivers in the World – Autoblog

INDIANAPOLIS — Ask almost any diehard motorsports fan who the best driver in the world is right now, and the answer will likely be the three-time reigning Formula One champion.

But Alexander Rossi has raced against Max Verstappen before, just as he raced against NASCAR star Kyle Larson. And now that he’s Larson’s teammate in his Indianapolis 500 debut, Rossi is adamant that Larson can compete with anyone.

“Dude,” Rossi said, “I think he’s already at the top, so I don’t know. Put him at the top? Like he’s ‘the man.'”

As good as Verstappen, who has won 48 of 72 races in F1 since 2021?

“I would say they’re on the same level,” Rossi replied, “and that’s like a pretty big deal.”

Larson qualified fifth for his first Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and then flew to North Carolina, where he finished fourth in NASCAR’s $1 million All-Star Race that evening at North Wilkesboro Speedway. This Sunday, he will become the fifth driver in history to attempt the “double” attack by running both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on the same day.

Tony Stewart, who completed the entire course on his second attempt in 2001, remains the only driver to complete the 1,100 miles. He finished third in the NASCAR night race, the best result of any double driver.

Not only is Larson capable of accomplishing the grueling feat of running two races in two completely different race cars in two different states, but he is also believed to be a candidate to win both races. According to BetMGM Sportsbook, he is one of the betting favorites for the Indy 500 and the Coke 600.

Larson won his championship season in 2021, which has become one of NASCAR’s crown jewels. His two-year Indy 500 deal is a joint effort between Arrow McLaren Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, his NASCAR team. Jeff Gordon was among the Hendrick executives who watched him qualify at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Still, the idea of ​​Larson winning the Indy 500 was overwhelming for Rossi, who knows what it’s like to accomplish such a feat as a rookie. Rossi hit victory lane when he made his debut at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2016.

“Wow, damn. I’m going to be so annoyed,” Rossi said of a Larson win. “I’ll understand how everyone else felt when I won. Is he capable of that? Yes. Would I be happy for the team? Yes. Would I be annoyed inside? Yes.”

Larson had the same feelings a year ago after the NASCAR road race in Chicago, which Shane van Gisbergen won in the rain on his debut. After van Gisbergen won NASCAR’s first road race, Chase Elliott said the New Zealander “made me look bad,” and Larson wondered if van Gisbergen “thinks we all suck.”

Rossi said a victory for Larson would have the same effect. “We know he’s good,” Rossi said, “but him coming into our world and winning his first event doesn’t reflect well on us.”

Two-time IndyCar champion Alex Palou disagreed, saying Larson could add even more prestige to the Indy 500.

“It’s Kyle Larson. I don’t think it would hurt,” Palou said. “If Kyle Larson wins, it’s Kyle Larson, so whatever. He wins everything. So I don’t think it would make us look like idiots. It’s not like I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, if he wins, that’s cool.’ I don’t want him to win. But I think he’s definitely going to be there.”

Larson was back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway early Monday after the All-Star race and entered the finish line to take the traditional photo of the 33-driver field with the Borg Warner trophy in their midst.

As he sat on the pit wall, chatting casually, the Associated Press asked him about comparisons with Verstappen. Larson’s dark sunglasses hid the shock on his face, almost as if he thought the idea was ridiculous.

“Not in an F1 car!” Larson replied. “I can’t beat him in an F1 car. And I bet he can beat me in an Indy car, just based on his experience on the streets and race tracks.”

So where could Larson compete against the Dutchman?

“I mean, I hope I can beat him in the sprint car,” Larson said.

He thought the whole conversation was hypothetical – a waste of time. “I don’t understand how this is even possible,” he said. “If you don’t practice multiple disciplines, how can anyone say you’re the best?”

Like it or not, Larson will make his case on Sunday.

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