Key Moment – Matt Borland called for two tires on the final pit stop for Ryan Newman and, as a result his driver wound up ahead of the other dominant car of the day for the final run to the finish.
In a Nutshell – Ryan Newman ruined Jimmie Johnson’s weekend. On Saturday, he was the last car out and knocked Johnson off of the pole during Sprint Cup Qualifying. On Sunday, he took two tires on the final stop and beat Johnson’s pit crew’s time by enough to come out of the pits ahead of Johnson on the final stop of the race and then waltzed to the win. Since those two drivers led nearly ¾ of the race, that was what handed the victory to Newman while the other 41 drivers – and 75,000 fans in attendance – struggled to keep their eyes open.
Dramatic Moment – On lap 132, Jimmie Johnson pitted from the lead and took on four tires. As the stop neared its finish, there was a problem on the left rear tire that resulted in the stop lasting 18 seconds and ultimately putting Johnson on the track behind Newman when the final pit stop sequence cycled through.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
There’s not a lot of passing at Indianapolis. Yeah, that’s right, we get it. There isn’t a lot of passing at Indy and there never has been. Until the last two years, there wasn’t a lot of passing in the Indy 500 either. Tony Stewart pointed out in his post-race press conference that there is a definition in the dictionary for racing and another for passing. The two words are not synonyms for each other. Indy is about making the fastest car, within the rules, then going out and beating everyone with it. Stewart also noted that no one has backed into or lucked into a Brickyard 400 win. Every winner has had the best car at the end of the day when they’ve won the race. In one sense, that’s a good thing… but it also cuts out a lot of the drama.
Jimmie Johnson is still the best driver/team in the series right now. No matter who you are or what you think you have going on, you’re going to have to go through the No. 48 to win the championship, poor pit stop notwithstanding. Johnson led the most laps today and, outside of Newman, was the car to beat for this entire weekend.
There were more fans at the race this year than any of the previous five years. Since the tire debacle of 2008, the Brickyard has been trying to get back to the level of fan attendance that it enjoyed in the early years. While there will never the 500-like crowds, since the race is not blacked out in Indiana like the 500 is, there can still be 150,000 people in attendance. The crowd this year, while still not as big as anyone would like, saw more butts in the seats than have been seen since the 2008 mess. The fans in Indiana support the Speedway no matter what.
Today’s Cup car must be too easy to drive. Don’t tell that to Jimmie Johnson; he claimed, in his post race press conference, that his car was scary at times to drive, especially when he was trying to overtake backmarkers. That said, a race that averages more than six cautions per event had only three and they were all for cars slowed on the race track. If people were legitimately pushing themselves and their machines, we would see someone spin out like we did in Nationwide qualifying Saturday. People are either not trying hard enough or this car is just too forgiving.
It was a great weekend to be on the safety crew at Indy. Two major NASCAR races, 260 laps of competition and there were a total of seven cautions. Three were for debris, one was for fluid, and three were because someone needed a push to get to the pits. Not having to clean up a debris field after a major pileup or even having to pick up much flat tire debris makes for a pretty cake weekend when you’re a track safety worker, especially on the best crew in the world.
Passing for the lead is becoming as rare as Bigfoot. Ok, maybe not THAT rare but of the 20 lead changes among 12 drivers on Saturday at Indy, only one of them took place on the track. While there should be some advantage to being the leader, when the two best cars on the track can’t even exchange the lead under green flag conditions, something needs to be done. Carl Edwards preached it again after the race like he has for years. If we take the splitter and valence off, reduce the spoiler and let Goodyear make a softer tire that wears out the racing will be far better just like Fontana was this year.
It is time for NASCAR to run all of their series on dirt. While that sounds like a great idea, that might not be the best of all options. Certainly, the race on Wednesday was fantastic but dirt races don’t always play out like that. The heat races, for example were terrible until the Last Chance Qualifier. Trying to put Cup cars on dirt very well could be a colossal mistake. It could also be the best thing that has happened since 1970. Unfortunately, no one knows the answer unless NASCAR takes a chance on running it. Let’s wait and see how the next couple of years play out with it in the lesser series.
Norm Benning got up on the wheel at Eldora. It isn’t a stretch to say Norm Benning isn’t Richard Petty. With that said, Norm is out there every week, living the dream and trying to make a go of it in the Truck series. Generally speaking, when he makes the race, he’s a back marker. Wednesday night, things were set up for Norm to not make the race again. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the DNQ. Norm was in the transfer spot with a handful of laps to go and got up on the wheel and took on all comers to hang onto that final position. It wasn’t something we normally see from Norm but it was a great part of Wednesday night.
Here’s the other twist: multiple teams rushed to Benning’s aid to help him make the race at Eldora. The other outstanding part of Benning making the feature at Eldora was the true short track spirit of so many teams who helped Norm take the green. After his battle in the LCQ, the exhaust was loose and a host of other things were askew on Benning’s truck. No fewer than five different teams rushed to Norm’s truck, pushed it into Ken Schrader’s pit and swarmed over it, getting it into race shape before it was time to report to the grid. There is no greater example of the racer/short track mentality that competitors helping each other to be able to compete against each other.
The Nationwide race should not be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It goes without saying that the best races of the year prior to 2012, in both the Trucks and Nationwide, were always the dates at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. With the Nationwide race being foisted on the fans at IMS and the Truck race simply gone, there is a major void that needs to be filled. IMS should be reserved for the premier series of whatever discipline is competing there. It should not host Indy Lights, Continental Tire or Nationwide. Yes, the lights finish this year was unbelievable but, in the long run, there should only be top-tier races held at the venue.
Tony Stewart can not only drive anything with wheels but he’s a heck of a business man too. From the successful Truck race at Eldora to the Brickyard win for Newman, who is out of a job at the end of the season, Stewart has been making the right calls as a business owner. In the post race interviews Stewart admitted that telling Newman he would not be back next season was incredibly difficult but something that had to be done from a business standpoint. Stewart is still ecstatic for Newman as a friend. There aren’t a lot of people who can handle both of those situations with such aplomb as Stewart, but those who can are like Stewart, great businessmen.
Everyone at Indianapolis was talking about the possibility of lights. The idea repulses purists and those who hated seeing things like lights at Wrigley Field and seats on the Green Monster. For the practical types, it makes sense. Cooler temperatures would make for better potential racing, or at least passing, and night time affords that option. Secondly, night races are better attended races, just check the statistics. While they certainly aren’t needed, and the Speedway after dark should be left to the souls who oversee the place, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if there were 20 billions watts of Musco turning the place into the largest lighted playground in the world.
Race Names are too long. The Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com was held three days after the Car Cash Mudsummer Classic presented by CNBC’s Prime the Profit. Can’t we just get back to naming races after the city or state that is hosting the event?
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Jeff Burton is keeping the seat warm for Ty Dillon and would still like to have some competitive runs while his buns do the work. Sunday was not one of those as Burton pushed all of the water out of his car and ended up 50 laps down, but running, in 43rd place.
Timmy Hill also had some crazy engine issues going on as he was the cause of two of the three cautions on the day (Burton was the other). Hill slowed on the track enough to bring out the caution on laps 60 and 115. Fortunately for him he rebounded more quickly than Burton and came home in 42nd place, ahead of the seasoned veteran.
Justin Allgaier was sitting on pit road when the Nationwide grid formed up for their final pace lap. He ended up having to pit a couple of times to get an engine issuer fixed to allow him to race the Indiana 250. While he did end up 33rd and running, it was not anywhere close to what he’d hoped for out of his second trip to the Brickyard in the series.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a loose wheel at the very beginning of the race. As a result he got off sequence with the leaders. He and crew chief Steve Letarte mixed up their strategy during the race and it worked out with a sixth place finish. While it wasn’t a win, it was a very strong rebound that averted a bad finish at one of Earnhardt’s worst tracks statistically.
Marcos Ambrose went down a lap in the early stages of the Brickyard. Fortunately he was the Lucky Dog on the first caution and charged back to a 16th place finish.
Kyle Busch had a two tire stop go bad with 40 laps to go in the race. As a result, the team called an audible, made some other adjustments to the car and rolled back onto the track in 22nd place. By the time the checkered flag flew Busch was sitting in 10th place. Through driving and strategy, Busch turned a potential bad point day into a solid finish.
- There were zero cautions for debris in the Brickyard 400. The three cautions were all for the Nos. 31 and 32 cars stopping on the track.
- Ryan Newman is the second Indiana born driver to win the 400. Tony Stewart was the first. Famous Hoosier Jeff Gordon was born in California and transplanted to Indiana as a youth.
- Newman’s win was his 17th of his career. Newman has started 424 Cup Series events in pursuit of those 17 victories.
- This is Newman’s first victory since April 1, 2012 at Martinsville and his first ever at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Newman won from the pole to become the third driver to ever do that. Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson were the other two.
- Johnson’s second-place finish is his fifth top two at Indy. His other four were all victories. Johnson only has six top 10s in 12 starts with an average finish of 15.6.
- Johnson’s top 5 was his ninth of the season.
- Kasey Kahne’s third-place finish was his third top 5 in 10 career starts at the famous oval.
- Kahne’s top 5 was his sixth of the season.
- Chevrolet has won the Brickyard the last 11 seasons in a row.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. won the Rookie of the Race again.
- Six of the top seven finishers were powered by Hendrick Engines. Matt Kenseth was the lone interloper among the top finishers.
- Top 10 finishers by Manufacturer –
Chevrolet – 7 Toyota – 2 Ford – 1
- Joey Logano ran the only Ford to finish in the top 10 (eighth).
What’s the Points?
Jimmie Johnson’s point lead has now ballooned to 75 points over Clint Bowyer. Johnson has the second most bonus points to Matt Kenseth (29 to 30), is tied with Kenseth for most wins (4), is tied with Kyle Busch for most top 5s (9) and has the most top 10s in the series (14). Bowyer holds second place by 10 points over Carl Edwards, who is still in sixth after a 13th place finish today. Kevin Harvick is now seven points behind Edwards after Happy rolled to a 19th place finish Sunday. Dale Earnhardt Jr’s sixth place finish today leaves him 32 points behind Harvick but still in the fifth place in points.
Matt Kenseth is only one point behind Earnhardt Jr. after finishing one place ahead of him in the Brickyard 400. Neither driver scored a bonus point today. Chasing Kenseth is Kyle Busch who is a mere five points behind Kenseth thanks to his top 10 finish today. Busch is a comfortable 45 points ahead of Greg Biffle who resided in eighth place. Kahne’s third place finish today moved him one spot higher in the top 10 to ninth while Jeff Gordon’s seventh place finished jumped him two spots to the last postion in the top 10.
Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. are the two drivers currently occupying the Wild Card slots for the Chase. They both have one victory and reside in 11th and 12th place respectively. Ryan Newman is 16th with a win and David Ragan is currently ineligible for the Wild Card due to being outside of the top 20, even though he has a win.
Overall rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, where 1 is a stinker and six is an instant classic) — For the second week in a row, the outcome gave a slight boost to the rating, but not much. Had Johnson won the race this would have been a solid stale beer stinker. However, since Newman stole the pole from Johnson and then pulled the same maneuver during the race to secure the win as a Hoosier in front of his home state fans, we’ll give this one two chilled Busch Lights. Zero on track passes for the lead, limited passing elsewhere, zero spins or part failures leads to a less than thrilling event. That said, it is still Indy and it is still the coolest place in the world to attend a race.
What’s Next — The series heads back to the Tricky Triangle in the Poconos. The Gobowling.com 400 will be held on Sunday August 4th. The coverage starts at 1:00 on ESPN and MRN. Jimmie Johnson rolled into Pocono in June pissed after giving one away at Dover the week before. Look for him to look to sweep the Pocono races for the year.
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