Had someone told me during the first 12 laps of the Brickyard 400 that the smooth and civil race I was watching was going to last seven and a half hours, two and a half of which would be red flagged, I would have asked if we were watching the same event. But after sticking it out til the end, I now want to ask if Indianapolis Motor Speedway has any SpeedyDry left? And, does the track have any plans to install night lighting in the event that NASCAR ever again encounters 14 cautions and 3 red flags? These are valid questions considering the prestigious Brickyard 400 this year played out more like the Junkyard 400.
Stage 1 started under a blue sky as pole-sitter Kyle Busch pulled away from the field just as predicted. However, when the caution flag appeared on Lap 13 for Corey LaJoie who spun and hit the wall, it was quickly replaced with a reg flag and the cars were brought down pit road and covered due to a rainstorm quickly approaching. Given the lightning in the area, fans were evacuated from the grandstands and thus began a 1 hour and 47-minute rain delay.
When finally the race restarted, the remainder of Stage 1 saw two more cautions, the first being a competition caution to check tire wear and the second for Chase Elliott in the #24 Napa Chevrolet when his engine expired on the back straightaway. Kyle Busch led all laps in Stage 1 and got the stage victory.
Stage 2 resulted in 3 cautions as well, two of which were for JJ Yeley. The first came when he tangled with David Ragan and the second was just a few laps later when he spun all by himself. With 24 laps to go in the stage, Dale Eanhardt Jr got into the back of Trevor Bayne. This caused Jr to put on a smoke show for his final Brickyard 400 appearance as his radiator expired and ended his day. Yet again, Kyle Busch managed to hold off Martin Truex Jr and captured the second stage win.
Intensity and desperation were quickly amplified in the final stage with 6 cautions in only 60 laps. The first yellow flag was seen 7 laps into the segment when Ricky Stenhouse Jr was turned into the inside wall on the front straightaway. Only 4 laps later, it flew again on the restart for the lead cars of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr who were side-by-side and heading into Turn 1 when Truex got loose on the bottom as he tried to hug the turn. He wiggled up the track as Busch was turning down and the two collided. The contenders spun out with Busch narrowly missing oncoming traffic as he slid down the track and Truex erupted into a fireball as he slid up. Amidst flames and a whole lotta smoke, Truex quickly climbed out of the car. Luckily, no one was hurt but both cars were effectively out of the race.
When the race restarted, everything went smoothly until just 11 laps to go when the No. 14 of Clint Bowyer got loose, veered left across the nose of Erik Jones‘ car and shot straight into the inside SAFER barrier. Jones spun out and collected Jamie McMurray just as Kurt Busch tried to dart through the middle of the chaos and ended up plowing into the back of Bowyer. The intense hit sent Busch into the outside wall and Bowyer continued to spin down the front straightaway. The race was red flagged for 20 minutes while safety crews cleared the track and dumped SpeedyDry onto the surface to soak up the leaked oil.
Six laps later, Kyle Larson was battling for position when he hit the SpeedyDry and lost all traction. His car bounced off the inside wall and careened into Turn 1 before coming to a stop and erupting in flames and smoke, in a spectacle similar to Martin Truex Jr. On the restart, Jimmie Johnson became extremely aggressive while racing for the lead with Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski. With smoke billowing out of the back of Johnson’s car, indicative of engine trouble, he made contact with Kahne and got loose on the bottom. He spun up the track and caused the race to go into over time.
Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne were on the front row of the restart when the 3rd place car of Trevor Bayne moved up the track and made contact with 4th place car of Denny Hamlin. Bayne got sideways and collected Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell, Austin Dillon, and more. The race was red flagged yet again, this time for 24 minutes worth of clean up.
With only 22 cars left on the track – essentially just half of field – Keselowski and Kahne attempted to restart again as the sun was going down. NASCAR’s rule is that the leader of the race must make it to the overtime line on the backstretch of the racetrack before a caution comes out in order for the finish to be declared official. This proved beneficial for Kahne as he had just crossed the line when the caution flag flew once again for Denny Hamlin, Ty Dillon, and Paul Menard who wrecked.
Kasey Kahne was declared the winner and kissed the bricks for the first time in his career, giving team owner Rick Hendrick his 10th victory.
Next weekend, The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be at Pocono Raceway next week for 400 miles around ‘The Tricky Triangle’. Get your tickets HERE