There might not be a race that is more under the microscope than the Brickyard 400. But for the third straight year NASCAR’s annual trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway produced a memorable afternoon of racing.
Complaints about the racing, attendance and general empathy from a segment of the fan base generally dominate the conversation in the days leading up to Indy. This year was no different.
However Sunday’s race, which was weird and had a lot of ups and downs on a variety of fronts, still delivered 400 miles of entertaining and intriguing competition.
Kevin Harvick prevailed this time around for his second win in the crown jewel event. As he did when Harvick was victorious in 2003, he did it from the pole position. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who started the year winless in the first 19 races and has not won three of the last seven to end the regular season, took advantage of an obvious fast car and the impact of the new rules package that made it difficult for drivers to pass because of the turbulence created in the draft.
It wasn’t quite that easy for Harvick who fended off a number of challenges to win in a day that had playoff drama, crashes and enough intensity to keep Indy’s recent momentum going.
Next year the race slides back from the final race of the regular season to its more traditional summer date, which is where Indianapolis spent the bulks of its more than a quarter of a century on the NASCAR calendar. There will no doubt be the same scrutiny around the 2020 date.
If it’s as compelling as Sunday’s 26th edition, I’ll take it.
- An end of an era came Sunday when Jimmie Johnson crashed out of the Brickyard 400, which ended his hopes of making the playoffs. It will mark the first time in Johnson’s Hall of Fame career the NASCAR post-season will not include the seven-time champion. Johnson had a fast car again Sunday as he did a week ago at Darlington, but could not avoid contact with teammate William Byron on a late restart that sent his car into the wall and out of the race…and the playoffs.
- Kyle Busch ended his 2019 Xfinity Series schedule on a high note with a win in Saturday’s Indiana 250. He is betting .500 at Indianapolis winning four of the eight series races held at the track. Busch wound up taking four of the allowed seven Xfinity starts this season. He went as perfect five for five in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for a combined nine wins in twelve starts across NASCAR’s number two and three divisions. The good news for teams in both series, as well as some fans no doubt, is Busch won’t have a chance to compete in either again until 2020.
- NASCAR and Netflix unveiled plans this for a new sitcom using the sport as a background. Kevin James will star in “The Crew,” playing a crew chief working in a “NASCAR garage.” It immediately triggered a negative reaction from some on Twitter concerned the show would reinforce tired stereotypes and somehow put the sport in a bad light. That ridiculous assessment came of course before even one single episode of the show has aired. Fast forward to a Friday Xfinity Series confrontation between Michael Annett and Mike Harmon that started on track then – as most things do today – boiled over to Twitter. Harmon challenged Annett to meet him at a local Indy-area Applebee’s to um, iron out their differences. The meeting did not occur. However the incident did provide an interesting example of truth being stranger than fiction and who knows, maybe an upcoming subplot for the new sitcom.
- It was an odd weekend where one driver signed a long-awaited contract extension – for just one year – and another was forced to deny rumors of his retirement. Erik Jones and Joe Gibbs Racing formally announced a new deal for the driver of the team’s No. 20 ride, but it was just for the 2020 season. That means this time next year, Jones will be in the same boat about whether he’ll remain with JGR or be moving on to another organization. Déjà vu all over again. Ty Dillon had to defuse speculation he would leave Germain Racing to take a management job with Richard Childress Racing, effectively ending his full-time driving career. Dillon emphatically put out that fire saying he plans on driving “for many many years” in response to the rumors.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.