What if?…

That‘s the question that will continue to haunt us after a long day of auto racing on Memorial Day weekend.

What if Mother Nature hadn‘t intervened, delaying the start of the Indianapolis 500 and shortening the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night?

A weather system that battered the Midwest forced Hendrick Motorsports to change plans that had been in the works for a full year. Delayed from the planned 12:45 p.m. start, the green flag at the Indy 500 flew nearly four hours later, making Kyle Larson‘s “double” with the Coca-Cola 600 impossible.

Given the emotional and financial investment team owner Rick Hendrick had made in the Indy 500 effort, the choice was obvious. Larson would run the full race at the Brickyard and fly to Charlotte Motor Speedway to take over his usual Sunday ride from Justin Allgaier, who would start the No. 5 Chevrolet in his absence.

Yes, Larson would sacrifice potential stage points and Playoff points—and almost certainly would lose his lead in the NASCAR Cup Series standings—but with two Cup victories this season, he was already locked into the Playoffs.

Driving for Arrow McLaren, Larson finished 18th at Indy. But for a pit road speeding penalty, he likely would have been competing for a top-five spot in IndyCar‘s most prestigious race.

We didn‘t learn just how crushed Larson was by his own performance until a day later, when he posted a mea culpa on the X app.

“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,” Larson wrote.

“…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.”

It‘s nonsense to think Larson has to apologize for his Indy 500 debut. During an impressive two weeks at the Brickyard, he turned heads with his quick acclimation to the cars, not to mention his fifth-place qualifying effort.

What‘s more, he learned what it was like to race in the previously unfamiliar vehicles—extraordinarily useful information if there‘s a next time.

Adding to Larson‘s frustration on Sunday was more interference from the weather. In a Coca-Cola 600 that had started more than 90 minutes after the Indianapolis 500, Allgaier had done an admirable job in the No. 5 car.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series veteran started from the rear because of the driver change, and after getting a feel for the car and the chaotic restarts that are routine in the Cup Series, he drove the car to 13th by the time Larson arrived at Charlotte by helicopter.

But Larson had no chance to drive his Camaro. Lightning stopped the race as Larson was readying for the driver change, and torrential rains followed, ultimately forcing NASCAR to call the race after 249 of the scheduled 400 laps had been completed.

Accordingly, we were left with the obvious unanswered questions.

Had the race continued, would Coke 600 winner Christopher Bell have been the driver celebrating in Victory Lane?

Or would Brad Keselowski, who was chasing Bell at the suspension, have overtaken the frontrunner with a car Keselowski felt was superior?

“Yeah, it was pretty disappointing,” Keselowski said. “I felt like we had a car to win the race. We kind of ran down the 20 car (Bell) twice and just didn’t get to see it play out. Kind of slipped through our fingers there. Would have liked to have just had more laps…”

Would Larson have been able to charge though the field and contend for the victory at Charlotte, thereby relieving some of the disappointment he felt leaving Indy?

These are questions that can never be answered. What we already knew was that extraneous factors, such as the weather, can make a hash of the best-laid plans that have been months in the making.

“We knew all along weather could throw a wrench into things but seeing it come to reality is a horrible feeling,” Larson continued in his Monday post.

There is a remedy. Larson can attempt the double again next year, armed with the information he gathered in this year‘s attempt—and preferably with 1,100 miles to run under friendly skies.

— NASCAR News Wire —

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