The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been under water seemingly all week, but the cars and drivers of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series were finally able to get going around the famous 2.5 oval on Monday. The day started early, with the Xfinity Series getting on track first, as the 250-mile race started around 10 AM. Current championship points leader Justin Allgaier won the Lilly Diabetes 250, which is his fifth victory of the season, and his first at Indianapolis.
Mother Nature washed out all on-track activity on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This came after a rain delay of more than three hours on Thursday night for the USAC BC39 sprint car event on the newly built dirt track. The A-Main, won by Brady Bacon, technically ended on Friday as the checkered flag came out well after midnight. The starting lineups for the Brickyard 400 and the Xfinity race were set by points, as practice and qualifying was rained out for both.
It was a historic rain delay, with no practice or qualifying all weekend, and the 650 miles of racing on the IMS oval is the most in a single day in the track’s 109 year history. For Roger Penske though, it was worth the wait. The legendary team owner has 17 Indianapolis 500 wins, but has never won the Brickyard 400. Today, the 25th running of the event, The Captain finally got his trophy. Brad Keselowski muscled his way around Denny Hamlin on a restart with less than three laps remaining. With fresher tires, the Michigan native had the upper hand with each passing corner.
It is the second consecutive victory for Keselowski, who earned his first win at Darlington last weekend. It is the first Brickyard win for Brad, the 499th overall for Team Penske, who swept the two biggest races this year, with Will Power drinking the milk back in May. Mr Penske was not able to be at the track, but he was just a phone call away.
Erik Jones snuck past Hamlin on the final lap to finish runner-up, as Hamlin had to settle for 3rd after leading a race-high 37 laps. Stewart-Haas teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer rounded out the Top Ten on Monday. Hamlin and Bowyer appeared to have the strongest cars, but Keselowski was in the right place at the right time at the end.
The 2014 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Kurt Busch finished in 6th place, while former Brickyard winner Jamie McMurray came home in 7th. Kyle Busch led 27 laps, but was far from the dominant driver we have seen in recent years. After starting on pole, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver came home in 8th place, but did manage to capture the regular season title. Two more former Brickyard winners Paul Menard and Ryan Newman rounded out the Top Ten.
Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano were 11th and 13th respectively, rounding out a very solid afternoon for the Penske team. Matt Kenseth won Stage 2 of the race, and finished in 12th position. Young guns Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott both landed inside the Top 15 on Monday. Four-time Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson stayed near the front and out of trouble, and earned a 16th place finish. It was enough to get him into the Playoffs where he will chase his 8th NASCAR title.
There were many cautions flags in the race, with the most notable one coming out after 41 laps when reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr had a brake problem that resulted with him in the wall. Despite his 40th place finish today, Truex finds himself in third place in the standings as the Playoffs begin. Keselowski is just behind him in fourth now, with Kyle Busch and Harvick sitting at the top as the 10-week postseason begins.
The 16 drivers battling for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title are Kyle Busch, Harvick, Truex, Keselowski, Bowyer, Logano, Kurt Busch, Elliott, Blaney, Jones, Austin Dillon, Larson, Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Johnson, and Alex Bowman. Teams and drivers now head west, already a day behind schedule. The next race is this Sunday, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, beginning at 3 PM ET on NBC Sports Network. Immediately following this is the final race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, where the title will be decided between Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi at Sonoma.
The weather over the past four days couldn’t have been worse for this event. Still, the hard work and dedication by the IMS staff and NASCAR officials is greatly appreciated. The end result was a fantastic double-header event on Monday that featured exciting racing and a dramatic finish. This, along with the two-night USAC event proved to be fruitful. Congratulations to the winners – Zeb Wise, Brady Bacon, Justin Allgaier, and Brad Keselowski.