The 2017 Brickyard 400 was one to remember. There were delays for weather and crash cleanup, bold passes, aggressive driving, and a popular winner that hasn’t visited victory lane in 102 races. Kasey Kahne crossed the yard of bricks as darkness fell over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Early on, the race appeared to be a repeat of the the two previous years. Kyle Busch dominated from the start, leading 87 of the first 110 laps after starting from pole position. Then, things changed.
Busch and Martin Truex Jr were on the front row during a restart, and after Truex go loose in the middle of Turn 1, both drivers saw their day end with hard contact with the outside wall. It has now been over a year since Kyle won a Cup race. Still, Kyle now only trails Jimmie Johnson by 5 for second most all-time in laps led during the Brickyard 400. Jeff Gordon has led the most, at 528 in his 23 race starts.
Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick have more Brickyard starts than anyone in the field, and found themselves vying for the lead on the next restart. Unfortunately for them, a handful of yellow flags over the course of the next hour would not play to their favor. They finished 5th and 6th respectively on Sunday.
It is the 9th career Top Five finish for Kenseth in the Brickyard 400. He also has 12 Top Ten finishes, and both rank second all-time behind only Jeff Gordon. Despite finishing in the top five in half of his 18 Brickyard 400 starts, Kenseth has still never kissed the bricks. His future after this season is a giant question mark at this point.
Late in the race, Clint Bowyer lost control of his No. 14 car exiting Turn 4, which resulted in a pair of nasty collisions. The first was with the inside wall, and the second came when he bounded into the path of his teammate Kurt Busch. It was another taste of Brickyard bad luck for Busch. He was just one of many that were doomed by lady luck on Sunday.
Kurt performed extremely well in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, finishing in 6th place. He hasn’t had the success at IMS in the stock cars though. In his 17 Brickyard 400 starts, Kurt has just one Top Five finish, which was his first race back in 2001. He has also only led a total of 3 laps in those 17 starts.
It was a bitter sweet day for Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne got the win, but their other three drivers saw their day end early. Chase Elliott had engine issues that resulted in a 39th place finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr had radiator issues after contact on a restart midway through the race, and finished 36th in his final Brickyard 400 start. Jimmie Johnson was part of a three-wide battle for the lead in the final laps, when he spun in Turn 3, finishing 27th.
Kahne edged Brad Keselowski through the speedy dry on the final restart, which proved to be the winning move. With Joey Logano finishing fourth, it was a bitter-sweet day for Team Penske. Obviously Roger Penske has had tremendous success here in the Indianapolis 500, but that success hasn’t translated to this event. Today was the fifth runner-up finish for Roger Penske, but he still has yet to get his first Brickyard 400 victory.
It was a record setting day for the event. The 14 cautions were the most in the 24 year history of the race, and the average speed (114.384 mph) was the slowest ever. The green flag waved at 2:47 PM, and the race concluded at 8:57 PM. The chaos and unpredictability resulted in a much needed win for Kahne, which came after starting in 19th position.
While the focus continues to be the crowd turnout, it is important to remember that the event will be moving to September next year, as the final race before the playoffs begin. It is also possible there will be aero changes to the cars similar to what we saw in the Xfinity race yesterday. Besides all of that, the racing this year was actually very good. Drivers were able to pass, push, and maneuver around fairly well.
The race is not what it once was, but that is true of nearly every motorsports event in today’s age. Still, it was another fun event, and one that I look forward to each year. It is much better than no race at all, and fans should all want to see as many events at IMS as possible. In the end, it is good for everyone. Just ask Kasey Kahne.
A full day of action is on tap today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Cup practice and qualifying for the Brickyard 400 will take place, while the Xfinity series will have more practice, qualifying, and then the Lilly Diabetes 250 at 3:30 PM ET.
Fresh off his win last weekend, Denny Hamlin led the first practice session this morning, while Rookie Erik Jones paced the field in final practice. In the Xfinity series, it was Elliott Sadler who captured the pole position for the afternoon race.
As for the race itself, it was highly competitive, and entertaining. The new package worked very well, allowing cars to maneuver around each other, and sling shot entering Turns 1 and 3 around the 2.5 mile oval. After holding off a charging Paul Menard, it was 19-year old William Byron who got to kiss the bricks on Saturday. It is the third win of the season for Byron, who gave team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr a nice present as he prepares for his final Brickyard 400 start tomorrow.
Joey Logano finished in 3rd place, while Kyle Busch ended up 12th. An alternate strategy required him to make a pit stop while leading, with less than 20 laps remaining in the race. He led a race high 44 laps, but it was Byron who led the most important one. Kyle was disappointed, but he would not be for long. It was time for Brickyard 400 qualifying.
For the second consecutive year, Kyle will lead the field to the green flag. His lap of 187.301 mph was easily good enough to take the top spot over Kevin Harvick. It is the fourth pole of the season for Busch, and the 23rd of his career.
The top four qualifiers have all kissed the bricks at Indianapolis, as Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson will start from Row 2 tomorrow. Hamlin, last week’s winner, and current points leader Martin Truex Jr share Row 3. Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, and Ryan Blaney round out the top ten.
Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch qualified in Row 6, while Dale Earnhardt Jr starts his final Brickyard race in 13th, alongside Matt Kenseth. Chase Elliott starts 16th, and Kyle Larson will roll off in 25th after fighting an extremely loose race car during qualifying this evening. Sunday’s race coverage begins at 2 PM ET on NBC.
For the 24th time, NASCAR heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 400 miles around the 2.5 mile oval. Kyle Busch is seeking to become the first driver to ever win three straight races at IMS. Oddly enough, the Cup cars will not be on the track today, as it will be a two-day show for them this year. Instead, the Xfinity series takes center stage.
The Xfinity cars are going with an experimental setup this weekend. Restrictor plates, and aero changes are being implemented in the race in an effort to spice up the competition. If all goes well, it could be looked at as a change the Cup cars could transition to next year. Justin Allgaier was fastest in practice today, with a speed of 166.485 mph.