I was at the track the first time Kevin Harvick won at The Brickyard and his monster burnout down the front stretch was spectacular. 16 years later, Harvick gains his 2nd Brickyard win and his third win of the season heading into the playoffs.
With two wins in the last 4 races, Harvick, seeded fourth, is as much of a title challenger as anyone right now.
Kyle Busch has had a couple of tough races recently and Brad Keselowski wrecked at Indy early on. Martin Truex, Jr. certainly struggled at Indy as did Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch.
The Brickyard hasn’t been a great race in a long time and the crowd looked as thin as ever. But while the race can be a bit of a yawner, there were some pretty bright moments. Key among them was Bubba Wallace, Jr. grabbing third place. He unloaded fast and was fast during the entire race. Sadly, he was unable to lead any laps.
Clint Bowyer, seeded 15th, finished fifth and is just happy to be here, folks. He and Ryan Newman, seeded 16th, will have their work cut out for them as they head to Las Vegas. Believe it or not, both have a better ranking at Vegas than Harvick who has 2 wins but also 2 DNFs to go along with them.
William Byron, seeded 13th, showed speed once again as he finished fourth. He could be a sleeper to exit the first round of the payoffs.
Paul Menard continued with a strong day at Indy, starting 2nd and finishing 10th.
Daniel Suarez finished 11th but it wasn’t enough to vault him past Newman for the final transfer position. A couple of mistakes earlier in the race cost him position and may have cost him a playoff spot.
The biggest name not in the playoffs? Jimmie Johnson. Let that sink in for a moment. Jimmie “7-time” Johnson.
Now Johnson is out to win a race and end the drought that has gone on since June 2017. I don’t think he will get that at Las Vegas though, it’s not one of his best tracks.
Now onto the first three races of the playoffs, where 4 drivers will be eliminated after each of three rounds. The first three races are Las Vegas, Richmond and the Charlotte Roval. This is going to be tough to pick the drivers that won’t make the cut. First of all, I think Newman and Bowyer are going to have a tough time advancing. Next I would have to pick Aric Almirola and then Alex Bowman.
A couple of other drivers that may be on that bubble would be Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and even Kyle Larson. Larson has been hit or miss this year with mostly misses. So seeing him miss the cut wouldn’t surprise me.
Brad Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano have both won at Las Vegas. Harvick won there last spring and Martin Truex, Jr. has a recent win there. Those 4 drivers have combined to win the last six races at Vegas.
These next three races are all about winning and stomping on the neck of your biggest threats to keep them down. You really don’t have to worry about some of the long shot teams, as they will take care of themselves. You really want to avoid meeting Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick at Homestead.
(Image courtesy of NASCAR Media via Getty Images)