Ty Dillon would return the legendary No. 3 back to Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after gaining the lead on a late restart with just 25 laps to go to score his first career Nationwide Series win in the Lilly Diabetes 250.
Dillon, who led 24 laps on the afternoon, held off a surging Kyle Busch by .833 seconds to score the victory. Matt Kenseth would come home third while Kevin Harvick, who had the dominant car most of the afternoon, leading a race high 33 laps, finished fourth. Joey Logano would round out the top five in fifth.
The Lilly Diabetes 250 was a race that typically defines the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Long green flag runs and pit strategy ruled the day as well as the all important track position, which usually determines many Nationwide Series races. The Sprint Cup regulars, namely Busch, Harvick and Logano combined to lead 64 out of 100 laps and six of the seven cup regulars in the field would finish in the top 10 on Saturday.
Paul Menard, Brian Scott, Kyle Larson, Trevor Bayne, and Regan Smith would round out the top 1o. Championship points leader Chase Elliott would fight the handling on his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for much of the afternoon. He would finish in 12th and Elliott Sadler would also struggle to a 15th-place finish. Elliott would leave Indianapolis as the points leader by four points over his teammate Smith. Sadler sits 11 points out of the lead, Dillon only 15 markers back, and Brian Scott rounds out the top 5 in points, 42 points back. Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher, Brendan Gaughan, James Buescher and Ryan Reed round out the top 10 in the championship standings.
Ty Dillon had the biggest day of his career at the Brickyard on Saturday. On top of scoring the race win, Dillon also won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus. Dillon made a big statement with the Indy win as it makes him as a major contender for the Nationwide Series championship. Next week’s race at Iowa looms large for Dillon, where he finished eighth in May. Dillon needs to stay in Elliott, Smith, and Sadler’s tire tracks in order to apply more pressure going forward.
Trevor Bayne had another solid day, finishing ninth. The drawback to the finish was it was basically unnoticed. Granted, Bayne has 14 top 10 finishes in 2014, but in order to get back in the championship hunt it has to become win at all costs from this point on. Bayne has to be looking forward to Iowa, where he does own a Nationwide Series win.
Talk about a momentum zapping race weekend. Brendan Gaughan had a miserable time at Indianapolis. Gaughan wasn’t on the radar all weekend, managing only a 17th-place qualifying effort and race time was no better as he failed to make any sort of ground through the field, eventually finishing 19th. Gaughan’s shot at a championship for all intents and purposes are finished but he does have some good tracks coming up for him in the coming weeks and chances to build some momentum going later into the year.
If today wasn’t case enough to move the Nationwide Series race back to Lucas Oil Raceway Park from the Brickyard then nothing ever will be. Everything from the lack of fans in the stands to the lack of action on the track made for a very poor product. This was easily the worst Nationwide Series race of 2014 and its not even close.
Underdog Performer of the Race:
Landon Cassill and JD Motorsports continue to take next to nothing and make something. Cassill who started 30th on Saturday wound up 16th in the final running order. Just based off what he has done in 2014 with lower tier equipment proves that Cassill deserves another shot with a top tier Nationwide team.
Double Duty and Start and Park Effect:
9 drivers that competed on Saturday will also compete on Sunday. Of those nine, seven are full-time Cup drivers, one (Bayne) is a full-time Nationwide Series driver, and one is full-time in both series (Cassill).
2 of the 40 starters decided to start and park (Blake Koch and Matt DiBenedetto).
The Nationwide Series has no place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I understand NASCAR wanting to put both the Cup Series and Nationwide Series at a track where tradition and history breathes through every inch of its 2.5 mile track surface but you can’t sell history and tradition in place of what really matters and that is on track product. I remember Saturday night’s growing up tuning into ESPN and watching the great action at Indianapolis Raceway Park with a great capacity crowd on hand. I also remember some of the most epic battles in NASCAR history being waged there and unfortunately, we have never seen that drama at IMS. The Nationwide race on Indy weekend used to be the best race of the weekend but now it sits a distant third behind the Mudsummer Classic and Brickyard 400. It is time that NASCAR put money aside and make a return to tradition by giving race fans a thrill on race weekend with some good old fashioned short track action at IRP.