INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — After backing out of his first Indy 500 qualifying attempt, Kyle Larson returned to the track Saturday and shot right toward the front of the provisional grid, posting a four-lap average that should put the NASCAR star in position to run for the pole.

Larson went an average of 232.563 mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to ensure his spot next weekend in the 33-car field. He was the sixth quickest midway through the first day of qualifying and the 12 fastest by the end of the day. He will return Sunday for the shootout.

“I’ll definitely take that,” said Larson, who on May 26 will try to become the first driver since Tony Stewart in 2001 to complete the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on the same day. “Hopefully it’s enough to make the fast 12 tomorrow. That would be really cool. But happy with it, the balance of the car. Proud of the team for not all of us freaking out.”

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There was reason for concern when Larson, the sixth of 34 cars due to qualify, backed out near the end of his initial run when his engine seemed to miss. Team officials took his No. 17 car back to the garage and went through it while the remainder of the field qualified, then sent it back to the track when they found nothing seemed to be amiss.

“Honestly, I feel like the nerves were a lot less going the second time, even not completing that first run,” Larson said. “I’ve never gotten to qualify like that where you get multiple shots at it.”

Larson joined teammate Alexander Rossi in the provisional top six, and they joined the three Team Penske cars holding down the top spots to give Chevrolet a stranglehold on the front of the provisional starting grid.

Larson also did it during the heat of the afternoon, when rising temperatures tend to translate into slower speeds.

“We’re not intentionally trying to create the drama,” said Jeff Gordon, the Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman, who largely grew up in nearby Pittsboro and dreamed of running the Indy 500. “Now we can breathe. Now we can ramp up for tomorrow.”

Larson wasn’t the only Arrow McLaren driver to have problems on the first day of qualifying.

Pato O’Ward pulled out of the lineup for his first run when the team decided to make some changes to his setup, Arrow McLaren principal Gavin Ward said. When O’Ward finally made a qualifying run, he experienced a similar problem to Larson’s first try.

Earlier in the day, Callum Ilott posted a four-lap average of 231.995 mph that put him in the top 10, but the time was thrown out when a postrun technical inspection discovered a problem with the left rear wheel offset on his career. Ilott was slightly slower when he made a second attempt, going 231.871 mph to put himself comfortably in the field.

Along with the pole shootout Sunday, the four slowest cars will compete for the final three spots on the starting grid.

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