NASCAR Cup Series

OBSERVATIONS: Brickyard 400

Admittedly going into the Big Machine Vodka Brickyard 400 on Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I was expecting a snoozefest. However, the race actually was solid throughout from beginning to end.

Throughout the event, whether battles on the track for position or strategy, there was always something to keep your focus and intrigue as to what would happen next. Combined with a thrilling battle for the win, and you can certainly give you the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event a B+.

Denny Hamlin trying to hold on with his old tires, combined with Brad Keselowski coming through with four new Goodyears saw the pair battle side-by-side on a restart with three laps to go. They may have rubbed each other – but hey, rubbin’ is racing, right? But nobody wrecked each other, and there’s a highlight reel to take moving forward.

The contact, along with the late-race cautions left Hamlin frustrated, obviously, as he stated that the yellows were caused by “meaningless” drivers in the back half of the field. To those drivers, every position matters – just like for you at the front. Sometimes, it doesn’t go as planned.

Even without the late-race caution, the race had delivered to that point as previously mentioned. You had drivers moving forward their forward, as well as those falling back further in the pack. There was even a battle shaping up for the win between Hamlin and Clint Bowyer at that time, too.

Notably, restarts produced the biggest excitement as they always do due to the space at Indianapolis. Therefore, concern was there about when we got into long runs, especially when you have Dale Earnhardt Jr. saying, “As the laps go, the tires get hotter, and the pass gets harder,” but that still held some interest. Cue Bowyer’s hard work to get second mid-race as that took awhile in setting Kurt Busch up, but he did get the job done.

Though if you tuned in at the beginning, you may have been ready to turn it off quickly with the scheduled cautions. It had me flashing back to the Indianapolis race where they threw a caution like every 15-20 laps due to tire issues. With the stage cautions that are already there every week, only one competition caution was needed at the beginning rather than two. Then if they saw tire issues at Lap 10 (or say 15 if changed), they could easily have added another.

Other Observations to Consider……

Kevin Harvick proved why he is one of the drivers in the “big three” as he fought back to a fourth-place finish despite a pair of pit road issues. But has the big three turned into the dynamic duo? Following a brake issue on Monday, Martin Truex Jr. will enter the playoffs with four straight finishes outside of the top-10. Could the announcement about Furniture Row Racing’s demise be affecting things deeper than originally thought?

By the way, it was Kyle Busch winning the regular season championship after finishing eighth following a pair of issues throughout the day, including a late-race flat tire. He and Harvick will enter the playoffs tied at the top of the standings. Let the games begin.

Alex Bowman may be the last driver getting into the playoffs, and his team will need some momentum fast if they’re going to upset the projections. The only problem is he has finished the last two races outside of the top-20. it seems the momentum Hendrick Motorsports was gaining is slowly fading away again as Chase Elliott was their highest finisher in 15th.

It is worth noting, though, that Elliott ran in the top-10 most of the day until a late-race decision to pit by Alan Gusfatson while the top-10 stayed out. That same decision to pit won Keselowski the race, though. 

– You can’t blame Jamie McMurray for trying to pull the hail marry by not pitting with 17 laps to go to restart third to try and make the playoffs as you find out your kicked out of your ride for 2019. He still walked out of there with a top-10, anyway, placing seventh. 

If you missed it, the Associated Press opened the day by reporting that Chip Ganassi told them that McMurray will not be in the No. 1, but has been offered a ride for the Daytona 500 and another position within the team. 

– Nobody expected Matt Kenseth to get a stage win, but that’s what he did today after Roush Fenway Racing found themselves running in the top-10 throughout the entire first half of the race. The past series champion just missed the mark at the end of the day, though, placing 12th. 

Darrell Wallace Jr. also had a brake failure for the second time this season, and continues his streak of no top-15’s since Daytona International Speedway in July. Remember all the hype that he began the year with?

– Another week of NBCSN choosing when to go to commercial wrong as discussed plenty times before. Who goes to break with just five laps complete? They could’ve also showed the middle portion of the field when they were three-wide after the top 13 drivers stayed out while the rest pitted, rather than showing the single-file top-seven competitors.

– Having a driver’s on-board camera available for viewing via Twitter the whole race is a good way to promote the sport. Now how about we get that available to everybody worldwide rather than just based on people’s locations?



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By Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.