It Was Another Boring Brickyard 400 Until It Wasn’t
It was set up to be another arguably boring NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was hot, it was humid, borderline miserable outside. The weather was so bad, it’s one of the reasons that the race was being moved to September. This was the last miserable hot Brickyard 400's.
24 hours earlier, NASCAR fans were treated to a Xfinity race unlike any other race we had seen in the legendary race track. 16 lead changes, and a winning margin of .108 of a second; both Xfinity race records at IMS. At 75-years-old, Morgan Shepherd became the oldest driver to lead a lap at the 107-year-old race track. The first two fueled by a new competition package specifically required for this Xfinity race.
The cars had restrictor plates installed, as well as special air ducts. The speeds dropped. This year’s pole winner was 16 miles per hour slower than the previous year’s winner. None of that mattered as fans were treated to one of the most exciting stock car races to be held at IMS. William Byron edged out Paul Menard in an exciting finish.
Then there was the Brickyard 400. Kyle Busch started on the pole, again. He was well on his way to winning his third consecutive Brickyard 400. Then there was Lap 110. Busch and Martin Truex Jr who had made deals on previous restarts decided to race it out.
“I think we need to race him,” said Busch to his team on the radio. The green flag dropped, and it was all over for Busch and Truex. Truex appeared to get loose and bumped into Busch. Both cars went into Turn 1, and Truex had to quickly get out as her car caught fire. “ He wrecked us…we’re done, K.O.ed,” was all Busch could say before thanking his team.
Busch had dominated the race, winning the first two stages. He held leads of over three seconds on several occasions. He wasn’t dominating like he did in 2016, but he was on his way to victory. He led for 87 laps after starting on the pole.
To Truex’s credit, he took the blame after the accident. “I just got loose and wrecked him. It was totally my fault,” Truex said on television. “I didn’t realize he was going to drive that deep and suck me up. But I have to take responsibility for that one.”
In total, 17 of the 40 cars that started to race ended their days via accident. Chase Elliot’s day ended after 43 laps due to engine problems, and Landon Cassill was “parked” after an accident on Lap 162.
The final 15 laps of the race were red flagged twice, and the race was stopped for 44 minutes combined. After the second red flag, the race which had started at 2:44 pm, turned into a race against sunlight, as the race ended just before 9 pm. The sunset was at 9:06 pm.
With the sun already lowered past the stands on the front straightaway, Kasey Kahne was leading Brad Keselowski as another accident took place on Lap 167 on the backstreatch. The race was called after that and gave Kahne his first win since September 2014 and ending a 102-race losing winless streak. “I’m exhausted. An unbelievable win; the team just kept working,” said Kahne after the race. Keselowski fell just short of giving Roger Penske his first NASCAR win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Penske holds the Indianapolis 500 record for most owner wins with 16.
In what became a battle of attrition, JTG Daugherty Racing saw both cars finishing top 10 for the first time with Chris Buescher finishing ninth, and AJ Allmendinger finishing 10th.
Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 36th in his final start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He won a Xfinity series race at Lucas Oil Raceway(then called Indianapolis Raceway Park) in 1998. “ We had a top 10 car for sure. It’s kind of frustrating because I was really enjoying being out there. Hopefully, our luck’s going to turn around. It’s been pretty tough and this is a difficult one to put up with,” said Earnhardt.