NASCAR almost pulled it off. Another new track configuration prompted by a desire to see better racing at a flagship track that has been losing interest. This time they didn’t bring in tons of dirt or repave a track. This time they used the old road course at Indy and for 78 laps, the race was pretty decent.
This story really started earlier on the weekend when the Indy cars and Xfinity cars were flying around and over Turn 6. The metal curbing designed to keep drivers on the racing line was taking a real beating as drivers routinely drove over it and occasionally bypassed it and flew over the larger speed bump. And I literally mean flew.
In road course racing, you are supposed to use the curbs. They are meant to keep drivers on course but to get the most out of the track, the racing line always goes onto and often over the curbs.
On lap 41, NASCAR slowed the field to remove part of a splitter that had become wedged underneath the metal curbing on the racing side in turn 6. That was warning sign #1.
On lap 73 a large piece of debris came off of a car and ended up in the racing groove, prompting another caution. Warning sign #2.
Then on lap 78 all heck broke loose. The curbing was visibly stressed and lifting as the field came around and the next thing you know, William Byron hits it just right taking out his radiator sending parts and fluid all over the track. Then one car after another piled into the melee with shards of cars everywhere as the curbing gave up entirely.
With a red flag now in place, NASCAR removed the curbing entirely leaving the speed bump in place and nothing to keep drivers off of it. You can imagine what happened next. With overtime in place, the field came round to turn 6 and Michael McDowell was unable to stay in the groove and got his right side tires on the speed bump sending his car into the air and crashing into those around him. Now the discussion was, can NASCAR even finish the race with such a dangerous turn in place?
It wasn’t until the second OT restart that drivers were able to actually stay in the groove and finish the race. And that finish was as crazy as anything else that preceded it.
With many the cars now out of the race, AJ Allmendinger found himself in third place behind Denny Hamlin and a desperate to win Chase Briscoe. Denny Hamlin was just staying ahead of Briscoe when Briscoe got hit in the rear end and he went off track into the grass. As he cut the corner, immediately creating a penalty situation, he came back on track with Hamlin. Over the race audio, you could hear Hamlin’s spotter telling him that he was now not racing the 14 due to penalty but for some reason, that message never got to Briscoe who punted Hamlin out of the racing groove. Briscoe was finally told he had to pull over thus giving Allmendinger all he needed to hold off Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson.
Kudos to AJ Allmendinger who had just missed winning in the Xfinity race on Saturday. He did everything he needed to do to stay in contention and put himself in the right place at the right time.
It was a popular win as AJ is well liked and this track means so much to him as a former open wheel driver.
For NASCAR, another black eye even though most of the race was decent in my opinion. I would rather see this kind of race again than watch the cars drive around in a boring circle for 400 miles.
Kyle Busch Watch
- It actually looked like Kyle might have a chance at winning this race until the track curbing came apart. Kyle finished on the lead lap but in 20th place.
Good on ya, mate
- As noted, AJ Allmendinger gets a popular win.
- Ryan Blaney (P2) wasn’t the fastest and appeared to be headed to a top 15 run when the curbing came apart and took out a bunch of other top 15 cars. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky.\
- Kyle Larson (P3) looked to be on his way to another win and then, well, you know. A bad restart cost him track position but he was able to claw out a better finish at the end.
- Chase Elliott (P4) somehow found his way back to the front after a pit road error.
- Matt DiBenedetto (P5) had visions of winning but the final restarts were just a mess.
- Kurt Busch (P6) was lucky that Larson was more interested in winning than retaliation.
- Erik Jones (P7) benefitted immensely from Curbgate.
- Justin Haley (P8) see Erik Jones.
- Austin Cindric (P9) was lucky to get back to the Top 10 but he actually had a pretty decent race going before Curbgate.
- Ryan Newman (P10) had a spin earlier in the race but Curbgate gave him the final spot
- Bubba Wallace (P13) went a bit off track to avoid the speed bump and that cost him some positions with the penalty. Otherwise he was headed to a Top 10.
So you had a bad day.
- IMS and NASCAR will be taking some lumps on this one. Curbgate.
- Daniel Suarez (P37) was having a decent race until Curbgate and then everyone lost their minds. He didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about some of the other drivers after the race.
- Joey Logano (P34) was headed to a possible Top 5 before he went headfirst into the tire barrier.
- William Byron (P33) was another Top 5 car before Curbgate.
- Austin Dillon (P31) needed to finish ahead of Tyler Reddick. Nope.
- Brad Keselowski (P24) will be happy to go back to oval racing.
- Chase Briscoe (P26) evidently didn’t know running off course in a road race means a penalty. OK, sure.
- Denny Hamlin (P23) may have his own situational awareness issue the next time he is around Chase Briscoe.
- Martin Truex, Jr. (P15) was driving a pinball and still brought home a Top 15.
- Kevin Harvick (P13) had part of another car embedded into the side of his car.
- And speaking of Kevin Harvick, he has won 4 of the last 6 races here.
- Look for the usual suspects this week from Kyle Busch to MTJ to Joey Logano to Denny Hamlin. This is not Kyle Larson’s best track but nothing surprises me this year.
- Rowdy has been running well when his teammates have had some bad luck. Joey Logano has been running better than Brad Keselowski and I expect that to continue this week as well.
- If Harvick can right his ship, he could be the man to beat. Otherwise, this could be a Rowdy vs Logano battle.
Stay safe and keep the shiny side up! Leave your Indy Road Course comments below in the comment section!
(Featured Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)