The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400, the only trip of the year to the famous speedway. The first stage will end on lap 50. The second stage will end on lap 100. The final stage will conclude at lap 160.
40 drivers are making the trek to Indianapolis to compete for 40 spots. No drivers will be sent home after qualifying on Saturday evening.
This weekend at Indianapolis kicks off a new weekend schedule for Cup drivers. There will be no on track activities for teams on Friday. However, there will be a NASCAR Fan Fest featuring many of these drivers. The events will consist of, but not limited to, the Hauler Parade, pit-stop contests, and a relay challenge with young fans.
Cup teams will have five sets of Goodyear tires for practice, one set for qualifying, and eight sets for the race. The right side tire will be the same compound ran last year at the speedway. However, Goodyear brought a new left side tire compound that is slated to provide more grip for drivers.
This weekend will be the 24th event from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There have been 19 different pole winners and 13 different race winners. Only four drivers have won from the pole with Kyle Busch being the last driver to do so in last seasons event. In 2000, the race record was set by Bobby Labonte at 155.912 mph. In 2014, Kevin Harvick posted the qualifying record at 188.47 mph.
Here are what driver’s are saying about racing at Indianapolis:
“It’s pretty neat to race at Indy. I remember my first time at the track in the XFINITY Series a couple of years ago and how cool that was and now my first Brickyard 400. I think that’s another milestone for anyone’s career. I’m excited to make my first start in the Brickyard and hopefully have a good showing,” said Erik Jones. “It’s just neat to be at Indy and close to home really for me. It’s neat to be there at a track that not only has the Brickyard 400, but the Indy 500 and all the history involved is pretty special.”
“Indy is Indy. It’s the coolest racetrack that we get to race on, other than Daytona. The history, the prestige, the value of Indianapolis – it is defined by the number of decades they have produced races there and the atmosphere. It’s very electric at Indianapolis,” said Kurt Busch. “For me to actually get to run the Indy 500 in the month of May is a little different than when we race there in July because of the fact it is their backyard, it is their stage. Those Indiana natives love their track. What makes Indy special is the people.”
"It's the Brickyard. It's the history of motorsports in America. It's that yard of bricks. It's a special place when you think about everyone who's been there associated with F1, IndyCars, motorcycles and NASCAR. It's unique because of the four corners, the long straightaways and the flatness. To me, it's just unique in so many ways. It's a fun place to drive and yet, it's quite a challenge at the same time,” said Ryan Newman.
Cup teams will have two practice sessions on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EDT and 11:00 a.m. EDT on CNBC. Teams will qualify at 6:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday on NBCSN. The Brickyard 400 will air on NBC beginning at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, in conjunction with Performance Racing Network, will broadcast qualifying and the race on the radio.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Returning back to Daytona International Speedway after winning the Daytona 500 earlier in the season is a special time for Kurt Busch.
Winning the Daytona 500 was a special moment for Busch and his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team. After winning the Daytona 500, Busch felt that his team was little “hungover” from that excitement.
“I just seemed like a fog. The energy. I get sent on a media tour. Tony Gibson lives here in the shadows of Daytona International Speedway. All of us were so excited,” said Busch. “We’re ordering rings, flags. We’re taking the Harley J. Earl trophy to Ford’s headquarters, Monster’s headquarters, Haas’ headquarter...there was a lot going on.”
Once the team settled from the high of winning the Daytona 500, the team began to focus back on the transition to Ford and how things have changed. Busch believes the team has had a great season.
“In half the races this year we have a top-10 finish. Harvick won last week on a road course. For us to win at a superspeedway shows the versatility that Stewart-Haas has,” said Busch.
With the season at 10 different winners with the potential of more than 16 winners, Busch and his team are beginning to look at how to get to the championship using the playoff points accumulated during the regular season.
“We don’t need to be looking at what it takes to just get into the playoffs, we need to be accumulating those bonus points that stay with you through the playoffs,” said Busch. “We’ll see how it all plays out. We need to accumulate more bonus points to be more competitive to be one of those final four at Homestead.”
Returning to Daytona for Busch is a great feeling, but he still feels that he has more to learn about the draft.
“I just still need to continue to do my job to be better. You can’t be complacent even if you’ve won a race,” said Busch. “My statistics have been good, consistent. I’ve been lucky in a bunch of situations to avoid the ‘big one’ and it’s helped me develop those average finishes. We look forward coming to restrictor-plate races at Stewart-Haas. Tony Gibson is a good crew for the restrictor-plates and happy to have him on my side and I want to go there and deliver for him and the team.”
In his time at Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch has an average finish of 10.5. He currently sits 14th in the points standings.
CONCORD, N.C— Before the Coca-Cola 600 weekend began, VHT was added to the high groove at Charlotte Motor Speedway after a lackluster Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race the weekend prior.
This was the first time VHT was applied on an asphalt track. Many drivers came into the race cautiously optimistic about the VHT on the track.
After Saturday’s Xfinity race, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway officials applied more VHT to the groove because many drivers weren’t optimistic after the race.
Before the rain fell, drivers were itching their way into the groove with VHT. Kurt Busch attempted to run in the VHT groove during the race, but compared it to driving on ice.
After the race, Martin Truex Jr and Austin Dillon explained how the VHT changed the complexion of the race.
“I think it was a huge factor. I think last weekend the middle groove, middle to high middle, was nonexistent. It was the slickest part of the racetrack. Tonight for 375 laps of the 400 it was the main groove. Where typically there is the least grip on this racetrack, it was the most tonight,” said Truex. “It definitely played a factor. It changed the race quite a bit. I think the downforce rules this year changed it quite a bit as well. The bottom of the racetrack is so bumpy and so slick, I'm telling you after 10 laps it's all you can do to make laps without crashing down there. It definitely changed the race tonight. It made it a lot of fun, I thought. I thought it was a good addition.”
“I think it was pretty good to start the race. The middle groove took away from the bottom lane, which is pretty dominate here. After the rain, the bottom was pretty dominate. As the race went on, I could actually see the VHT leaving the track, and was getting clean higher and higher,” said Dillon.
When asked if VHT should be used on other asphalt tracks, Truex doesn’t believe it should be used on other asphalt tracks. However, Dillon would like to see it used more.
“I don't think so. I think this track is so unique, the pavement here, the geometry of the racetrack, the bumps that are in it. It's almost got a concrete feel the way the bumps are. They're really, really small, high-frequency bumps, almost like a washboard, kind of the feeling you get at Dover. Most asphalt tracks are not bumpy that way. They're more of a swell. The car kind of goes through swells, a place like Chicago or Atlanta. It's very, very different here. The pavement is different than anywhere we go,” said Truex. “The bumps in the racetrack are way different than anywhere we go. I think both of those things kind of contribute to us needing to do some different things here to change up the racing. I think it was a good addition tonight. I don't know what it would have been like had we not had it. The bottom was so slippery, I don't know if it would have been a good race or not. Just hard to say.
“We got something there as far as trying it. It’s not a bad thing. I really think we should try it more often. I think the next thing we need to look into is the placement of it. We needed more on the very top because the middle was really dominate, but you couldn’t really get into the top of it like you needed to. That would be my next thing. I like it,” said Dillon.
As the sport continues to enhance competition, VHT may be next on the list.
LAS VEGAS, N.v.— When it rains, it usually pours for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).This was the case this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Kobalt 400.
In the first two races of the season at Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, SHR showed that their switch to Ford was not a hinderance as they showed the upper hand by winning the Daytona 500 and dominating the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
The organization, as a whole, seemed to struggle throughout the weekend, especially during the race.
Kevin Harvick’s day was the first to end of the SHR stable. Harvick only completed 68 circuits. Harvick cut a tire and made hard contact with the outside wall on the front stretch.
“It started vibrating about four or five laps there before it blew out, and I was just trying to ride it to the end of the stage there. Obviously, it didn’t make it. The worst part was the medical response,” said Harvick after the accident. “It took them forever to get to the car. All in all, our Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford was running good. We were just too loose right there. It’s not like we were even tight, so it either just cut the tire, or came apart or melted the bead.”
Harvick finished in the 39th position, only scoring one point to his championship tptal and no playoff points. Harvick currently sits eighth in points 41 points away from the points leader, Brad Keselowski.
Danica Patrick has a so-so day in Las Vegas. The team was forced to change the gearbox on Saturday, resulting in the team starting from the rear of the field on Sunday. In the opening stage of the race, Patrick was having trouble on entry and exit in the corners. She finished 29th in the first stage. In the second stage, Patrick climbed into the top-20 before pit stops sat her back. She finished 28th in the second stage. In the third stage, the day went from so-so to worse for Patrick. Patrick was two laps down. She pitted under the green flag cycling her out of the top-30. She worked her way into the top-30 before she suffered mechanical woes and went to the garage.
“It was another day where my Aspen Dental Ford team worked hard to get me better throughout the race. There late in the race, we finally got the car to a place where I think we could have got a little more racy with it, especially if we would have caught some breaks, but then it just flattened out. I just rode around the top in case something happened. Unfortunately, it did and having a teammate behind me was not ideal for the timing of it. We’ll just move on to Phoenix and see if we can keep improving,” said Patrick.
Patrick finished 36th at Las Vegas, scoring only one point. She currently sits 30th in the points standing, 95 points behind Keselowski.
Kurt Busch was the third driver from the SHR stable to experience trouble. Busch started the opening stage in the 17th position, but worked his way into the top-10. However, he was battling a loose handling car that resulted in him finishing 12th in this stage. The second stage of the Kobalt 400 is where Busch began to see problems. Busch began to experience battery issues that resulted in everything except the gear fan to be turned off. The team told Busch to stay out until the second battery died. Busch would use the first battery to work his way back to pit road on lap 201. Busch lost four laps on pit road as the team changed the batteries resulting in a 30th place finish.
“We went through a lot today. Obviously it wasn’t the day we were hoping to have with our Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion,” Busch stated. “We didn’t have the long-run speed or the balance, and we had an electrical issue that forced us to change batteries on pit road. We kept battling, we didn’t give up. I hoped to have a better run here in front of the hometown fans.”
Busch currently sits seventh in the points standings only 39 points away from Keselowski.
Clint Bowyer had the best day out of the SHR stable in Las Vegas. Bowyer was running strong in the first stage until he went down pit road under the lap 19 caution period. Bowyer lost several spots on the pit lane due to a slower car. Bowyer finished 19th in the first stage. In the second stage, Bowyer battled loose conditions, but battled to finish 14th. In the third stage, Bowyer found himself running the same lap-times as drivers in the top-six. Bowyer ended up finishing the race running in the 10th position.
“It was a struggle. To be truthful, we weren’t the best all weekend, but we just kept digging. Buga (Mike Bugarewicz) didn’t give up on the box and kept adjusting on it and got me pretty good, the best we’d been right there at the end. It’s a top-10 and gives us some momentum. It’s our third race together and we got a top-10, so we’ve got to keep digging,” said Bowyer.
Bowyer currently sits 12th in the points standings, 59 points back from Keselowski.
Despite the struggles over the weekend at Las Vegas, SHR hopes to rebound and recover at Phoenix International Raceway in the Camping World 500, the second race of NASCAR’s “West Coast Swing”.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Kurt Busch scored his first Daytona 500 victory due to the many of his fellow competitors losing fuel. This is Stewart-Haas Racings first win in a Ford. This is Busch’s first restrictor plate win since entering into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2001. Busch led the most important lap, the last lap.
"My mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind. The more unpredictability that keeps unfolding at the Daytona 500, I predicted it. It just got crazy and wild and I am so proud of all the drivers at the end. We put on a show for a full fuel run and nobody took each other out and it was one of the smartest chess games I have seen out there. All the hard work that Ford and SHR put into this -- this Ford Fusion is in Daytona’s victory lane,” said Busch in victory lane.
Ryan Blaney finished second, AJ Allmendinger finished third, Aric Almirola finished fourth, and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five.
At Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday, Busch stated, “It owns me. It doesn’t owe me anything, it’s just owned me over the years.” Now, he will go down in history as a Daytona 500 champion.
Busch started the race from the eighth position. Busch was a darkhorse throughout much of the first stage. Busch and his Stewart-Haas teammates attempted to stay together throughout much of the race. Busch and his teammates were hitting pit road during the first segment at lap 32 when Corey LaJoie wrecked coming onto pit road. However, that did not effect their performance when the race restarted. Busch went back down pit road shortly after, and was quiet until the second stage. Kyle Busch won the first stage with Kevin Harvick in second, Blaney in third, Brad Keselowski in fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five at the end of the first stage.
The second stage was saw a six car pileup in turn three that brought out the red flag for 17 minutes. Busch was the silent sleeper in the second stage. When the field was going back to green, Busch joined his teammates to have the top-three positions while Ford had the top-seven. The end of the segment saw Joey Logano attempt to make a pass on Harvick in the tri-oval, but was unsuccessful. Harvick won the stage, Logano was second, Ku. Busch was third, Keselowski was fourth, and Danica Patrick rounded out the top-five.
The third stage was wild and crazy. The field began to get ansy. The caution flew four times during the stage. The day almost ended for Ku. Busch on lap 129. Jimmie Johnson spun going into the third turn with help from Jamie McMurray. The wreck left Busch as the lone survivor of the Stewart-Haas camp to contend for the win. Despite the damage, Ku. Busch was able to contend with the leaders. As the race began to wind down, Ku. Busch and others were being told to conserve fuel. The field ran single file for numerous laps as drivers contended to save fuel. However, drivers began to drop out of the pack because they were running out of fuel. On the final lap, Ku. Busch was running second coming off of turn two chasing Kyle Larson. Larson ran out of fuel which allowed Ku. Busch to score the victory.
Despite not winning the Daytona 500 as a driver, Tony Stewart was ecstatic to win the race as an owner.
“It’s probably the most patient race I’ve watched Kurt Busch run. He definitely deserved that one for sure. I’m really proud of everybody . Great day for Ford Performance and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. I think this finally gets Gene Haas all the crown jewels. This is awesome, man.”
The race saw 37 lead changes among 18 different drivers. The race was slowed eight times for 40 laps by caution.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway. Coverage from Atlanta will be on FOX and Performance Racing Network on March. 5 beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST.