Nothing could stop Kyle Busch this past weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he went on to capture his first win in the Brickyard 400 on Sunday.
In route to his third straight win, which marks the fourth of the season, Busch outran his former teammate Joey Logano in the final laps of the green-white-checker finish. The win ended up being his second of the weekend after capturing the victory in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race with a last lap pass.
Busch’s hopes to reach the Chase for the Sprint Cup is starting to become more of a reality. Busch missed the first eleven races of the year after being injured in a crash at the Daytona International Speedway. He goes into Pocono next weekend sitting 23 points out of the top 30 in driver standings. NASCAR’s rules state that a driver must be inside the top 30 in order to make the Chase.
While in victory lane after the race, Busch talked about finding his happy place and capturing the win at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Nothing better than being in Victory Lane,” said Busch. “Nothing better than being in Victory Lane for one of the biggest wins of my career.”
Chevrolet has gone to victory lane in the last 12 races at the 2.5-mile track in the Sprint Cup Series. That streak certainly came to an end on Sunday with Busch’s victory. He also became the first driver to sweep a weekend there.
Logano will leave the 2.5-mile track with his best finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Logano led three different times for a total of 28 laps led to finish in the runner-up spot.
It was a bitter sweet Sunday afternoon for Jeff Gordon as he would make his final appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a driver. Gordon took the green flag in the 19th starting spot. Things went bad for the driver on lap 49 as he and Bowyer made contact in turn three. This would be the result as the second of nine cautions of the day. This caused the No. 24 team to go behind the wall and make repairs to the damaged car. Gordon will leave Indianapolis with a 42nd-place finish.
Jimmie Johnson continues to show the way at the top of the Chase Grid going into next weekend’s event at the Pocono Raceway. Clint Bowyer, who had a roller coaster kind of day on Sunday, will slide right back into it via points after finishing sixth. Bowyer is currently the 16th driver in the category if the Chase began next week.
It’s been since August 8, 2004. The journey to return back to Victory Lane at the most famous track in motorsports history has finally concluded for one Indiana man.
20 years ago, Jeff Gordon took his rainbow-soaked No. 24 Chevrolet to the winner’s circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for NASCAR’s inaugural race at the speedway. On Sunday afternoon, Gordon drove his No. 24 Chevrolet back to Victory Lane at the yard of bricks for the fifth time in the 21st running of the Brickyard 400.
Scoring his 90th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, Gordon tied Formula 1 driver, Michael Schumacher, for the most wins at Indianapolis with five triumphs. His last Brickyard 400 victory came in 2004 where he dominated the race – holding off Dale Jarrett to get his fourth win at the track.
“This team came prepared. That was an awesome Axalta Chevy SS, and we had so much support. With five (laps) to go I was trying to look up in the grandstands, but it is the biggest race in my opinion. I know the Daytona 500 is a big race, but to me personally, this race means so much because of the fans. Because of the history of this track, but I couldn't help it,” he said on his historic victory.
Although he did not lead the most laps, the 42-year-old arguably had the fastest car throughout the 400-mile event. In the 21st running of this event, Gordon had to pass his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, for on a late-race restart after the caution came out for Ryan Truex – who was off the pace on the apron of the race track. During the restart, Gordon passed Kahne on the high line, and set sail after that.
“I’m not very good on restarts and wasn’t very good today. I finally made the restart of my life today when it counted most. I knew we had a great race car. We just needed to get out front. Kasey (Kahne) kind of hung back and I kind of got a little ahead of him and I had to back up and was able to stay on his quarter panel and once we got down into (Turns) 1 and 2, I could hear him get loose. I was kind of glad he took the inside because I really wanted the outside,” Gordon said after the race.
Kahne dropped to the fifth position after getting passed by the three Joe Gibbs Racing cars, and then Joey Logano took a top-five away from the man that led a race-high 70 laps.
“I think we finished where we deserved to finish, we just need more speed in our car.” A GOOD RUN. “That’s about what we ran all day is where we finished. The guys did a good job. We got this thing better from the way we unloaded. We weren’t very good to start off this weekend, but every time we went out for practice or went on the race track we got a little bit better – through practice, through qualifying and even the race,” Logano said.
Kyle Busch used pit strategy to his advantage to come home in the second position, yet slipped over two seconds behind Gordon after the restart. This was Busch’s second runner-up finish at Indianapolis in two of the last three races at the 2.5-mile circuit. Throughout the day, he was racing outside of the top-10, but came on strong as his team took advantage of the multiple green-flag pit stops which took place in the first half of the race.
Busch was followed by his JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth – providing a solid day for the Toyota organization. However, since Toyota entered the Sprint Cup Series in 2007, they have yet to record a victory at Indianapolis.
During the race, there was talk of rain in the area. Following the competition caution on Lap 20, multiple drivers were reporting rain in certain areas on the track. However, after a few minutes of drizzling on the speedway, the rain diffused and the drivers were able to focus on the racing. But because of the speculation that rain was surrounding the track, there were several different strategies on the day – providing an added level of excitement for a race that many presumed would be the polar opposite.
Entering the Brickyard 400, pole sitter Kevin Harvick was labeled as the favorite to win the event. Moreover, after starting out the race with the lead, he was passed by Gordon after the two roared by the start/finish line to begin the second lap of the day. Harvick led 12 laps in Sunday’s spectacle, and sits 12th in points after finishing in the eighth position at Indianapolis.
Here are some notables from the Brickyard 400:
- Austin Dillon earned his third top-10 finish of 2014. This is Dillon’s first career top-10 at a non-restrictor plate track in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. He currently holds the final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup as he sits 14th in points.
- Jimmie Johnson came home in the 14th spot after coming off of back-to-back 42nd-place finishes.
- Carl Edwards finished 15th in the Brickyard 400. Edwards and Roush Fenway Racing owner Jack Roush announced on Sunday morning that they will be parting ways at the conclusion of the season.
- A.J. Allmendinger finished 17th on Sunday. Allmendinger struggled with the handling on his No. 47 Chevrolet. He started the race in the 36th position, and steadily worked his way through the field. With his top-20 finish, Allmendinger gained three spots in the standings and sits 23rd in points.
- Juan Pablo Montoya earned a 23rd-place finish in his return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a stock car. Montoya won at Pocono Raceway a few weeks ago in the Verizon IndyCar Series while driving for Team Penske. This was his second of a pair of scheduled starts at NASCAR’s top-tier division for the 2014 season. He currently sits fifth in the IndyCar Series standings.
- Danica Patrick was racing inside of the top-15 when she broke the right rear axle on her No. 10 Chevrolet. Patrick finished in the 42nd position after bringing her car into Gasoline Alley following a burst of smoke billowing out from her car on pit road.
- Trevor Bayne finished 43rd for the first time in his young career. During the same announcement about Edwards departing RFR, Roush stated his faith in Bayne piloting the No. 6 Ford on a full-time basis in 2015 with funding from Advocare – his sponsor in the Nationwide Series.
Kevin Harvick is quite happy once again. The 25-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series shattered Ryan Newman’s track record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by setting a time of 47.647 seconds to win his 10th career pole.
By setting the quickest time, Harvick has broken the 14th track record this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in what will be the 20th event of the season. This will be the second time in 14 starts at the yard of bricks in which the California-native will lead the field to the green flag. In 2003, he won the pole for the Brickyard 400, and also won the race after pacing the field for 33 laps.
“After the first lap I was probably more nervous than I have been in a while for qualifying. I wasn’t really expecting to have the car run that fast. From there they are all looking at you ‘alright if you screw this up it’s on you buddy’. It’s great to have fast cars they do a great job preparing the cars and just being able to come to the race track and know the cars are going to be fast takes a huge burden off of everybody’s shoulders just to get the balance right," Harvick said.
Jeff Gordon, the inaugural winner of the Brickyard 400 in 1994, will start in the runner-up position after coming up .178 seconds off of Harvick’s time in the final round of qualifying. Gordon was the second quickest car in each of the three rounds behind the No. 4 Chevrolet, and will start on the front row for the fourth time in 20 starts at Indianapolis. Along with Gordon, Bobby Labonte will be the only other driver to have raced in each of the 20 races at Indianapolis.
"To have that off of a day and be back this close, I got a little bit tight off to Turn 4 or we would have been a little bit closer to Kevin, but I’m still really proud of this effort. Qualifying second, qualifying is so huge here. To be on that front row and 20 years after that first Brickyard 400 I get excited about that," Gordon said.
Last year’s winner of the Brickyard 400, Ryan Newman, will start this year’s edition of the race from the fourth position. Juan Pablo Montoya makes his return to Indianapolis after racing at Michigan earlier in the season for Team Penske. After struggling with the handling of his No. 12 Ford during the first practice session of the weekend, Montoya will start from the eighth position.
Missing the race were Brett Moffitt, David Stremme and Matt Crafton. Labonte made the race on having the past champion’s provisional, albeit the No. 37 Chevrolet owned by Tommy Baldwin had no previous attempts entering this weekend’s event. Crafton was attempting to start his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race after winning the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title. Moffitt was attempting to make his third career start in NASCAR’s top-tier division after signing a contract with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Since retiring in 2008, Dale Jarrett has been one of the greatest announcers in NASCAR. Jarrett, 57, hasn’t been in a racecar in quite some time, yet he has never faded away from the sport.
Jarrett joined NASCAR on ESPN before he retired in 2007, and since then – his name has become well-known for fans that weren’t around to follow his racing career. Highlighted by winning the 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with Robert Yates Racing, the Hall of Famer won 32 events at the sport’s top level in 668 career starts. Making a career of being one of the most consistent drivers in NASCAR history, Jarrett has offered his fair share of advice for up and coming drivers.
Now, the 57-year-old will be moving away from the booth – at least temporarily. ESPN’s contract with NASCAR expires at the end of the year, and they were not able to reach an agreement with the sanctioning body. Evidently, NBC Sports Group came up with more money than FOX, which reached an agreement for $2.4 billion to provide coverage of each of NASCAR’s top-three tier divisions. However, Jarrett along with some of his ESPN colleagues might be out of work. Then, in late June, the company canceled their only NASCAR show – NASCAR Now.
“I've seen a different side of the sport is probably I think that's biggest. I could probably go to the booth every week and just look at the race and talk about it and do okay. But I think to be prepared and do as good a job and give as much information as I possibly can is about getting in the garage area, talking, staying up to date,” Jarrett said. “It's been a little over seven years since I've been in a car. I still want to know what's going on. Even though driving a racecar is going to be similar regardless, you're giving it your best effort. As things change, you want to keep up with that.”
This will be the last race for ESPN at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the track is incredibly special for the entire NASCAR community. Since stock cars raced a 400-mile event at the ‘Yard of Bricks’ for the first time in 1994, there have been 12 different victors in 20 races. However, Jarrett did something that changed racing at Indianapolis forever.
Jarrett and his crew chief Todd Parrott came up with the idea to go onto the frontstretch and kiss the bricks that lay upon the start/finish line.
“Todd grabbed me and said, Hey, remember what we talked about. It wasn't until then that I remembered that we were going to do something a little different. We hadn't told any of the crew or anything like that. So we just told them to follow us and went out and had our time on the yard of bricks,” he said on the NASCAR teleconference on Tuesday.
As his journey with ESPN comes to a close, Jarrett will be remembered for his insight in the booth. Arguably one of the best drivers in the 1990s, he provides plenty of memories for fans along with insight that spectators usually don’t get.
If he is able to land a job at another broadcasting company, the three-time Daytona 500 winner would be an essential part of any team.
“I was going to say a big race like Indy, but we bring tons of people, over 150 people, for ESPN to all of these next 17 races. It takes tremendously talented people there to do that, to bring a good product to the fans watching on TV, just like it does to have a good race team and organization. It takes all of that. We at ESPN have a tremendous group,” Jarrett said.
“It's been fun to learn something new and to look at the sport in a different way. It's always a challenge. Just like driving, I tried to get better with every race. I've done that here in the booth, too. It's going to be unfortunate that it's kind of my last time at Indy. But I'm going to look forward to that. Each and every week we'll be that. We're going to make the most of these 17 weeks.”
His career has been spectacular. It’s highlighted with 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins, and a pair of NASCAR championships in each of the sport’s top-two divisions.
After ending his consecutive starts streak last season that last since 1993, Bobby Labonte’s career is slowly winding down. Last year, Labonte ended his stint with JTG Daugherty Racing. Since then, he has raced just twice this season – both events being restrictor plate races at Daytona. However, the 50-year-old is not calling it quits just yet.
Tommy Baldwin Racing gave Labonte a call – asking for him to drive a third car for them at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in this weekend’s event. TBR usually races two Chevrolet’s on a weekly basis with Michael Annett and Reed Sorenson behind the wheel. But this weekend will be different as they will have a veteran behind the wheel.
“The big thing for Tommy (Baldwin) is - he's wanting to start a third team. Anytime you start a team or you want to accelerate your program, as you're moving forward, hopefully moving up, you put people in positions that they might not have been in before,” Labonte said on a NASCAR teleconference Wednesday afternoon. “It's just building his operation up. Anyway, I'm trying to help him out, get to that point. Hopefully he can get to that point one day with a third team like he wants to get to. If it works out for him, I wish him all the luck.”
As he will be helping Baldwin, Labonte will also be getting to experience the yard of bricks for possibly the final team in his career. Along with four-time champion, Jeff Gordon, Labonte is the only other driver to race in every single race at the Brickyard.
In order for Labonte’s No. 37 Accell Construction car to race on Sunday, he will need to qualify inside of the top-36 as the car has no previous attempts this season. There is no word on who the team is looking at to fill the seat for the third car next year, but Labonte might just get a call from Baldwin again this year – putting him in the seat a few more times.
Previously, Circle Sport Racing team owner, Joe Falk, stated that he was open to putting Labonte back into the seat of the No. 33 Chevrolet several more times this year if sponsorship is found.