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.
Despite earning the pole position, Kyle Larson will start from the rear of the field in the Overton’s 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
During post-qualifying inspection, NASCAR found the car to have an unapproved rear deck fin lid. Larson’s time was disallowed. Martin Truex Jr. will start from the pole.
According to NASCAR, the rear deck fin lid passed pre-qualifying inspection, but was considered out of spec in post-race qualifying. The rear deck fin lid was found to have been moved lower during qualifying. The part is not designed to adjust, but NASCAR found that the part was made to adjust.
"Not the way we wanted to get our first pole of the year, but looking forward to starting up front and getting a good pit stall,” said Truex. This will be his first pole of the season. Truex posted a speed of 133.077 mph.
Truex will start from the pole. Jimmie Johnson will start second, Matt Kenseth will start third, Jamie McMurray will start fourth, and Kasey Kahne will round out the top-five.
There will be no further penalties for Larson’s team.
Kyle Larson will start from the pole in Sunday’s Overton’s 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the fourth time of 2017.
“Our Target Chevy has been really fast all day. It has a lot of speed. Like I really don’t have to drive that hard and it just makes a lot of speed. So, that is good. We are missing Chad (Johnston, crew chief) this weekend and for the next couple of weeks, so good to rebound with a pole,” said Larson. “That is pretty strong out of our organization. I’ve got a great lineup of guys and gals. Hats off to everybody at the shop. It’s been so much fun this year. I have never really been a great qualifier, but this is our fourth pole of the season.”
The first round of qualifying was delayed for 20 minutes. Despite being delayed, numerous teams were still sitting in the inspection line as the round began. Luckily, all teams were able to pass inspection. Larson was fastest in the round at 133.189 mph. Erik Jones was second fastest at 132.172 mph. Jamie McMurray was third fastest at 132.149 mph. Chase Elliott was fourth fastest at 131.906 mph. Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five at 131.856 mph. All drivers will race in the race on Sunday. Notable drivers who did not advance include Ryan Newman (P25), Austin Dillon (P27), Trevor Bayne (P28), and Danica Patrick (P31).
In the second round of qualifying, Larson was fastest at 133.436 mph. Kyle Busch was second fastest at 132.706 mph. E. Jones was third fastest at 132.370 mph. Martin Truex, Jr. was fourth fastest at 132.287 mph. McMurray rounded out the top-five at 132.222 mph. Notable drivers who did not advance to the final round include Kevin Harvick (P13), Joey Logano (P14), Ryan Blaney (P16), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (P19).
Larson posted the pole winning speed at 133.324 mph. Truex Jr will start second with his speed of 133.077 mph. Jimmie Johnson will start third with his speed of 132.688 mph. Matt Kenseth will start fourth with his speed of 132.324 mph. McMurray rounded out the top-five with his speed of 132.071 mph. Kahne, E. Jones, Ky. Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Kurt Busch round out the top-10.
The Overton’s 301 will be broadcasted on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network beginning at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 16th.
Despite winning at Richmond International Raceway, Joey Logano is still looking to fight for his way into the NASCAR Playoffs.
Logano was received an encumbered penalty at Richmond, which stripped his win away for use towards the playoffs. Logano’s car was found to have a trailing arm spacer that was not in complete contact with its corresponding surfaces.
As a result, Logano lost Todd Gordon, his crew chief, for two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points events.
Before the penalty, Logano had an average eight place finish in the first eight events. Before Richmond, Logano led 218 laps. After the penalty, Logano’s average finish was 21.8, while only leading 163 laps in eight races.
However, Logano does not believe the penalty from Richmond is the reason for the slump.
“I think we know what it is and I don’t think it is that. That was so small that it didn’t make our car faster. That is the unfortunate part. it wasn’t something we were trying to do, it was something that happened after the race and it was a 32nd-of-an-inch,” Logano stated.
Logano attributes the struggles to crashing and new different body modifications to the cars.
“After Richmond, we had three crashes in a row. There were some different modifications to our bodies that NASCAR started regulating that took some performance away from our cars and we have to try to make that up. That is kind of the biggest thing right now,” said Logano.
Logano is now in a precarious position sitting right on the bubble of either making the playoffs or sitting out. Logano is currently in a battle with Matt Kenseth for that final playoff position.
“It is going to be a battle to the end for sure. I feel like both the race teams are really good. Both the race teams have fought for championships before. It is kind of interesting that we are both in this unique position right now trying to make the playoffs,” said Logano.
Logano is surprised that he is in the position that he is in, but knows that hard work will be an important key. The biggest key for the No. 22 team and Team Penske as a whole, it is about finding more speed.
“Our team is still capable of winning. We do have to get a little more speed in our cars. I think that is apparent. We have to be able to make our cars faster,” Logano stated.
Logano and his No. 22 team only have eight more chances to either win or score the most points to be able to run for a championship beginning in September.
With the announcement of Erik Jones returning to Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in 2017, the future of Furniture Row Racing (FRR) remaining a two-car organization came into question.
The announcement of Jones leaving FRR was expedited after Matt Kenseth made comments last weekend at Kentucky Speedway that he would not be returning to JGR in 2018.
Currently, Jones pilots the No. 77 Toyota for FRR. The car number currently has a charter, purchased from Premium Motorsports over the 2016 offseason.
“It was exciting going to two cars and I know it was something that Barney has thought about and talked about for a long time and I know his plans originally were not for this team to be a one year deal,” said Truex Jr. about the organization moving to a two car organization in 2017.
Truex has seen improvements in the young team throughout the season. Being the veteran driver, Truex has seen the benefits of having a teammate like Jones.
“I’ve enjoyed working with Erik (Jones). He’s been a good teammate. He’s a great kid. Love talking to him and hearing his point of view and things, so it would have been nice to have him for a couple years,” Truex stated. “That program I feel like just keeps getting stronger each and every week and they had a good run last weekend and it’s a shame to see that happen that quickly
Reiterating what he said at Kentucky, Barney Visser, team owner, released a statement about the future of FRR being a two car organization.
"We are working on our team plans for 2018 but don't have anything concrete to report at this time except that Martin Truex Jr. will continue to drive the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota,” Visser stated.
Despite 2018 plans being up in the air, Truex Jr. doesn’t believe the organization would change if they went back to a one car organization. Truex believes the strongest part of the team is that everybody know what they are doing really well.
“We’ve got a really, really tight group of guys that have done a good job working together over the last few year and have a lot of trust and confidence in each other and I think one of the strongest parts of our team is just everybody doing their own jobs and understanding what they are and doing them really well, so I don’t see anything changing,” said Truex.
Despite the uncertain future for a two car organization. Truex is leaving those issues to Visser and Joe Garone, FRR team president.
“I’ll leave that up to Barney (Visser, team owner) and Joe (Garone, team president) and everybody that runs the show,” said Truex.
Truex has scaled to 28 playoff points over the 2017 season. He has three wins, six top-fives, and 12 top-10 finishes. He has lead 1,115 laps.
In his inaugural season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Jones has one top-five, five top-10’s, and has led 31 laps.