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IMS Writers’ Roundtable, Vol. 39: Who’s Next for ROP?

Today’s question: Now that Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson have started the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program, what global racing star would you like to see take the rookie test next for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?”

Curt Cavin: My initial thought was Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen, but that’s unrealistic. Lando Norris might try Indy in a few years, so I suppose he could be considered for this question. But I think there’s an obvious answer – and I won’t be surprised if we agree on this. It’s Kyle Larson. He’s the most ready, non-INDYCAR driver in the world to tackle the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. I think he starts planning for an attempt the day after he wins a Cup championship.

Zach Horrall: I think Curt nailed it on the head in Kyle Larson. He’s one of the purest drivers in American motorsports right now, making a habit of hopping in seemingly any race car and winning often. Jeff Gordon’s larger role at Hendrick Motorsports seems to have resulted in their drivers exploring more than just NASCAR. Maybe that results in an Indianapolis 500 attempt? I’ll also add Kyle Busch to the list. The two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has expressed a lot of interest in giving Indy a go, just like his brother Kurt did. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him qualifying for the Indy 500 in the next few years.

Paul Kelly: Kyle Larson is the obvious choice, but we can’t have a unanimous decision here – that’s no fun! Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen never have expressed any interest in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES or the Indianapolis 500, so I don’t think they’re realistic. But McLaren young star Lando Norris has shown interest in the “500,” and his rising global profile would attract a lot of eyeballs to 4790 W. 16th St. in Indianapolis during May. Plus, the charismatic Norris has a seemingly easy path to a seat, as his boss in F1 is the same boss of Arrow McLaren SP in INDYCAR – Zak Brown. And don’t forget – Norris sort of has unfinished business at IMS. One of the biggest flashpoints of the virtual INDYCAR SERIES races in spring 2020 came when Norris was dumped from the lead late in the series finale on the IMS oval. Sure, that was only a computer game, but maybe Lando would like to exact some real-life revenge on the most famous 2.5 miles of asphalt on planet Earth.

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