As soon as the green flag dropped in Monday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Justin Allgaier drove to the front, albeit, he started second. But the No. 7 car proved to be dominant from the start.
Allgaier went on to finish fourth in stage one, though was leading off Turn 4 coming to green and white checkered flag. Three drivers got by, though only by .036 seconds, in a four-wide photo finish.
In stage two, Allgaier stayed out while others pitted to set themselves up for the final stage. The No. 7 car earned eight stage points, finishing third.
The final stage is where Allgiaer dominated, leading a race-high 41 laps. The No. 7 had to hold off Tyler Reddick over the final 15 circuits, but cruised to its fifth victory of the season.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to win at some of the best racetracks across the country, but never in a million years did I think growing up, sitting in the grandstands here, that winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a possibility,” Allgaier said. “I knew within two or three laps that not only did we have a shot at a good finish, but even a race win.”
For the second straight year, the XFINITY Series put on one helluva show using the high drag, restrictor plate package at Indianapolis.
Sure, Justin Allgaier spent a lot of time out front, and there wasn’t a pass for the lead over the final 20 laps, but this package is a direction NASCAR needs to go in at the Brickyard moving forward.
“It makes the racing exciting and keeps it close,” Tyler Reddick said of the package. “I think it’s really good here, but I have no interest running it anywhere else.”
Chase Elliott echoed those comments.
“I think it’s OK. Ask people watching,” Elliott said. “I drive whatever, but at the end of the day if it’s more entertaining to watch then I thik it’s a win. If its not, then its not.”
The racing was superb, with a four-wide battle for the stage win at the end of the opening stage with John Hunter Nemechek picking up the playoff point for the No. 42 team. When a driver got a few car lengths ahead of the pack, they were a sitting duck if the second-place car had drafting help, just like Daytona or Talladega.
Stage racing at its finest!
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) September 10, 2018
Daniel Hemric made many moves weaving in-and-out of traffic, but was utilizing big pushes, typically from his Richard Childress Racing teammate Matt Tifft. He, too, enjoyed the package but doesn’t think it was necessarily the package that led to the entertaining race.
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) September 10, 2018
“I’m not sure it was as much the package as much as nobody having laps on the racetrack,” he said. “I think that’s what made the race exciting from my standpoint. Once the race cycled through, it seemed like the best cars were still at the front but kind of equal. I wish we could have formed a little bit bigger runs.”
This is the third time this season the XFINITY Series had tested this aero package out. At Pocono, it sucked. Awful. Michigan was an improvement. But Indianapolis showed that this should be a track moving forward that both the XFINITY and Cup Series should have the plate package because it’s better than what we’ve seen at Indy over the years.
But I agree with Reddick, let’s use it at just Indy.
Mother Nature always win, and she kicked NASCARs ass this weekend in Indy.
On Friday, both XFINITY practices were cancelled due to rain… That was only the beginning.
When Saturday rolled around, the rain was still coming down and at noon ET, NASCAR pulled the plug on any action at the track — postponing the start of the Lilly Diabetes until 10 a.m. ET on Monday.
Fast forward almost 48 hours, more than 10 pace laps and the green flag finally waved on NASCAR action at the Brickyard. But with rain, comes mud, and if a car gets into the grass, it will tear that thing to shreds.
That’s what happened in the XFINITY race. On lap 22, both Austin Cindric and Spencer Boyd had their days cut short, trying to avoid an incident in front of them. When maneuvering into the grass, it literally tore the nose of their respective cars off of them. That wasn’t the last we would see the evil grass come into play.
On lap 70, Brandon Jones turned Cole Custer down the backstretch, though Custer took blame for the incident for trying to block the No. 19 car. As soon as the No. 00 made contact with the grass, it ripped the entire front end off the Ford. Custer slammed the inside wall.
He made contact with the inside wall before sliding back onto the backstretch. pic.twitter.com/EAXeiTfhxl
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) September 10, 2018
From an outside perspective and someone who has never sat inside a racecar, grass has always been bad at racetracks. It does more harm than good. Having four consecutive days of moisture at Indy didn’t help the teams cause because it dampens the grass, turns it into mud and the splitter gets stuck.
Sure, grass looks cool at tracks, but it needs to go. It’ll never go at Indy because of the prestige behind the racetrack. Hell, just look at the design. But drivers also want the splitters gone as well.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) September 10, 2018
Regardless, you didn’t want to get into the grass at Indy, or any track — but when it rains over the course of an entire weekend — stay out of the green stuff.
Whenever a crash happens at the front of the field, you know it’s going to be big, and it typically happens on restrictor plate tracks.
On lap 22, Ty Dillon entered Turn 3 in the middle of a three-wide battle between John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer. The No. 3 car got loose, spinning in front of the field.
Elliott Sadler, who had just gotten shuffled back on a restart had nowhere to go, and was spun head-on into the outside wall. Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric and Spencer Boyd all received damage as well — two of which attempted to go through the grass — but had the noses of their cars torn off.
Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler go around!
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 10, 2018
Dillon, Cindric, Sadler and Boyd were done for the day, finishing 33rd-36th.
“We were caught in the middle there,” Sadler said of the incident. “I had no place to go. If I turned left, I would have wrecked the people beside me. It’s a tough day for us. … That was one of our best cars, so I put my guys in a hole going into the Playoffs where everything is important.”
It’s Cindric’s third consecutive DNF, with results of 37th, 40th and 34th.
“It’s frustrating, surprising, irritating, but at the end of the day it’s racing and it’s what you’ve got to go through,” Cindric said of the recent dry-spell. “I just wish it could turn out better. I think we had a car capable of winning the race. I’ve had a lot of cars capable of winning races, and that’s all I can ask for and whether circumstances aren’t in my control it is what it is, so we’ll move on and get over it.”
For a smaller team like Boyd and SS-Green Light Racing, this effects the way the team performs going forward. This particular No. 76 car was scheduled to be the teams backup car next weekend at Las Vegas, since the team is not going back to Charlotte before heading out West.
Underdog Performance of the Race
It’s rare that you see small teams compete with the Goliaths of the XFINITY Series, but that’s exactly what Jeremy Clements did for much of the race.
At one point in the race, Clements drove the No. 51 car inside the top five after starting 18th, and even played a little strategy to try and run up front.
Finishing 27th in stage one doesn’t look impressive, but Clements pitted toward the end of the stage to set up for a solid second stage, which is where he would drive inside the top five, passing the likes of Chase Elliott and Tyler Reddick. At the end of stage two, the No. 51 Chevrolet sat in 11th.
The final stage saw some of the top teams drive away from the field. Clements finished the 250-mile race in 14th.
“It was kind of wishy-washy. It was rough trying to get our car dialed in with no practice,” Clements said of the finish. “I wish we could have ran a little bit better, but I’m glad it’s in one piece because this has to go to Vegas next week.
“It’s really difficult for a small team to get the right setup without practice because it’s all a guess. We don’t have simulation, or engineering — we have backyard engineering. That’s what we have to rely on.”
It could be said that being a restrcitror plate race allowed for the small teams to compete. But even then, Clements needed to execute to a respectable finish.
“You still have to handle. It’s all about getting the car low and traveling with the splitter and side skirts sealed off without it hitting the track,” he said. “I was having to let off too much to keep my car turning, and that’s where the fast guys would get us. The small teams were right there with each other and that’s what we had.”
The 14th-place finish is Clements seventh consecutive top-20 finish, and second best finish at Indianapolis. He scored a 10th-place finish in the series first race at the track in 2012.
Double Duty Interlopers
Ironically enough, many drivers competed in the doubeleader, but only a few could run the entire 650 miles between both races. It was also a race that saw Cup drivers rarely lead.
Ryan Blaney was the highest finishing Cup regular in third, though having to overcome a speeding and pit road penalty throughout the 100 laps. Chase Elliott was just behind in fourth, leading 13 laps.
Austin Dillon was the only other Cup Driver in the top 10, running the No. 10 car for Kaulig Racing — the first time the company ran two cars. Ross Chastain finished 12th, while B.J. McLeod and David Starr both had top-20 efforts, finishing 16th and 18th, respectively.
“It felt like somebody got into my left rear or the air just completely whipped the back of the car around.” – Ryan Preece
“It seemed like we just got hung out to dry a lot, but I just made a mistake there trying to make a block.” – Cole Custer
“I saw cars wrecking in front of us and had to avoid it, and it was either hit cars or use the grass and I used the grass which ripped the splitter off. The splitter went halfway through the car.” – Austin Cindric
This prestrictor plate package at Indianapolis works. Period. At other tracks, not so much.
But for the second consecutive year, the XFINITY Series put on a show at the Brickyard, including the aforementioned four-wide finish to the end of stage one. Drafting was prevalent in getting to the front, but clean air still mattered.
NASCAR should probably utilize this package at Indy for the Brickyard 400, or at least consider it. Compared to Pocono Raceway, where the series debuted the package at this season, the corner speeds are higher at Indy. Elliott Sadler believes that’s why it works at Indianapolis compared to other tracks.
The XFINITY Series will have a short turnaround before heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week for the first scheduled practice on Friday.
No Cup drivers will be allowed to compete in the event, since it’s the regular season finale. In the spring, Kyle Larson dominated the event, but Christopher Bell finished just behind in second.