Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Amy Henderson has you covered each week with the answers to six race-day questions, covering all five Ws and even the H… the Big Six.
Who… gets my shoutout of the race?
Starting in the back of the pack is tough at any track, so when Ryan Newman‘s qualifying time was tossed after the right-side window popped out (a technical violation) the thought would be that he would struggle to overcome such a big deficit — even with 400 miles to do it. But Newman did, climbing his way through the field to finish up in 11th place. Newman, who made it to the final race in the Chase last year despite not having a single win all season, could set himself up to repeat the feat with a few more strong finishes, confounding the notion that winning is the only way to a title a fallacy for the second year in a row.
What… beyond the drivers’ control affected the action?
Teams had to contend with the third rules package in three weeks, this time a high-downforce, high-drag setup created to bring the draft into play, create tighter packs and the belief that they’d be able to make a slingshot pass. Did it work? Sort of. Passing was a bit easier and it did help with aero push by making the cars looser, not tighter in traffic. But the field was still strung out for much of the race and clean air at the front still meant more than the package could overcome. All in all, the race looked closer than it was… had there not been debris on the track a few times (and props to NBC for showing it every time), the finish would have been a single-file parade of cars. Indy is long, high-speed, but too flat to run a superspeedway-style package. Perhaps the intermediate package they ran at Kentucky would have been a better choice for keeping the racing good.
Where… did the polesitter and the defending race winner wind up?
Carl Edwards looked like he and Kevin Harvick would be battling for the win… right up until Edwards bobbled on a late restart, dropping back several positions and taking himself out of contention. Edwards and Harvick, along with Joey Logano, had the best cars all day long, but after that fateful restart, Edwards was left to think about what might have been with his disappointing 13th-place result.
Jeff Gordon was looking to close his Indy run the way he began it: with a win. But a spin on a late restart sent Gordon to the pits for three laps to make repairs, and even after that, the car was not right, with Gordon struggling just to make minimum speed. He was able to get back on track to take the Indy checkers one last time (and from here on out, every race will be his final one at each track) but the results show Gordon finished 42nd.
When… did it all go sideways?
The race, by and large, was not particularly eventful. The only casualty proved to be Alex Bowman for a blown engine. For a pair of veterans, though, the race came as a disappointment as both were looking for storybook endings and got a harsh dose of reality instead. For Gordon, the race represented one last chance to win at the track he built his childhood dreams upon and where he’s won more than any other driver on the oval, in any series. For Tony Stewart, an Indiana native, it was a chance at redemption, his best weekend effort of the year to start. But at the end of the day, neither driver would recapture his youth in Victory Lane; both watched any title hopes slip a little further away.
Why… did Kyle Busch win the race?
The biggest step to winning races for a driver is to put himself in position to win should circumstances work in his favor. That’s exactly what Busch did, running third in the closing laps. When Edwards whiffed on a restart, Busch moved into second, able to make a run at Harvick (the fastest car) on the next restart. Busch then set up that restart to his advantage, with an eager Logano behind him and his teammate Denny Hamlin behind Harvick. Hamlin didn’t give Harvick the opportunity to lay back and get a push on the restart, allowing both Busch and Logano to rocket by when the green flew. From there, Busch held off Logano on the final restart of the day, using his clean-air advantage to open up a lead that nobody could challenge on the green-white-checkered finish. It was perfect strategy late in the race when it counted.
How… did the little guys do?
The Three Best
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing; finished fourth: Truex was back in to form after a couple of relatively difficult weeks, finishing in the top five with a shot at more. What’s really remarkable about this team in 2015 is its incredible consistency. It has served them well in points and will serve them well in the Chase; they should be a favorite to make it to Homestead in contention. When was the last time a single-car operation could say that?
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing; finished 12th: Blaney has run surprisingly well almost every time out this year, but hasn’t had a lot to show for it at the end of the day. This week he ran well from start to finish, avoided trouble and mechanical gremlins, and had a strong 12th-place finish to show for it. This team has seen a definite upgrade this season, whether it’s Blaney (who replaced Trevor Bayne this year) or switching alliances from Roush Fenway Racing to Team Penske in the offseason.
Casey Mears, Germain Racing; finished 20th: Mears scored his third top 20 in four races this week, so this team is finally running where it should be. Indy was a bit of a struggle, and late damage from contact with Michael McDowell probably knocked Mears down a few spots from where he should have finished, but this team battled through it. They’re clearly improving.
All the Rest
|78||Martin Truex Jr.||Furniture Row Racing||Furniture Row Chevy||13th||4th – Gained positions all day; had a shot to win||+9||5th|
|21||Ryan Blaney||Wood Brothers Racing||Motorcraft/Quick Lane/JDRF Ford||30th||12th – Finally was able to put together a strong run for a whole race and it paid off||+18||N/A|
|13||Casey Mears||Germain Racing||GEICO Chevy||16th||20th – Never really got the handle; damage late from contact with No. 95||-4||21st-1|
|47||AJ Allmendinger||JTG Daugherty Racing||Kroger/Kingsford Chevy||26th||23rd – Flat tire; unscheduled pit stop before first stops for others, lost a lap||+3||23rd|
|40||Landon Cassill||Hillman-Smith Motorsports||Chevy||24th||26th – Strong run||+2||N/A|
|38||David Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||FFA/CSX Living to Serve Ford||37th||29th||+8||29th+1|
|46||Michael Annett||HScott Motorsports||Switch Hitch Chevy||34th||30th||+4||35th|
|95||Michael McDowell||Leavine Family Racing||Thrivent Financial Ford||32nd||31st – Got into the No. 13 late||+1||38th|
|83||Matt DiBenedetto||BK Racing||VooDoo Barbeque & Grill Toyota||40th||32nd – Has been by far the best for BK Racing||+8||36th|
|35||Cole Whitt||Front Row Motorsports||Speed Stick Ford||41st||33rd||+8||31st|
|34||Brett Moffitt||Front Row Motorsports||CSX Play It Safe Ford||39th||34th||+5||33rd-1|
|33||Brian Scott||Circle Sport||Shore Lodge Chevy||36th||36th – RCR car w/ Scott; crash lap 120||—||N/A|
|51||Justin Allgaier||HScott Motorsports||Brandt Chevy||21st||37th||-16||30th-1|
|23||JJ Yeley||BK Racing||Dr. Pepper Toyota||38th||39th – Flat tire lap 60||-1||N/A|
|98||Timmy Hill||Premium Motorsports||Curb Records Chevy||42nd||41st – Broke an axle before green flag||+1||N/A|
|7||Alex Bowman||Tommy Baldwin Racing||Marsh Supermarkets Chevy||35th||43rd – Blown engine lap 77||-8||34th|
|26||Jeb Burton||BK Racing||Maxim Fantasy Sports Toyota||DNQ||—||—||39th|
|32||Josh Wise||GO FAS Racing||Brandeis Machinery Ford||DNQ||—||—||37th|
|62||Reed Sorenson||Premium Motorsports||Chevy||DNQ||__||—||43rd|