After an off weekend for the Cup drivers, NASCAR made its annual trip to storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the running of the Brickyard 400. Indianapolis, affectionately called Indy by fans and drivers alike, is one of the most historic tracks on the circuit. Next to the Daytona 500, the race at Indianapolis is one every driver strives to win. Winning there is an unforgettable experience for drivers, their crews, and the team owners.
Two weeks ago, the Roush Fenway Racing drivers ran one of their best races of the season at Chicagoland, and they looked to build on that performance and be contenders for the win on Sunday. A Roush Fenway Racing driver has finished 2nd at Indy four times. With zero wins among the four of them this season, each one wanted to be the winner kissing those famous bricks once the checkered flag waved, but once again, a win at the Brickyard eluded Roush Fenway Racing.
The first practice session on Friday was a major disappointment for David Ragan as the No. 6 UPS Ford was scored 40th on the board when practice ended. Three practice sessions later, Ragan had moved to 16th on the board. After qualifying 28th on Saturday, Ragan and his crew knew they would have to do al they could to get to the front because track position is so crucial at Indianapolis. Just after the green flag waved, Kyle Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. spun in turn two, resulting in chain reaction multi-car incident to bring out the first caution of the day. Busch and Hornish, Jr. both spun in front of Ragan, but he was able to dodge the trouble and was 23rd for the following restart. He had worked his way up to 16th when the caution came out on lap 15 for debris. The caution would also serve as the competition caution that had been originally scheduled by NASCAR for lap 15 due to heavy rains at the track the night before. Ragan reported his car was free off the turns and tight in the center. Crew chief Donnie Wingo made the call for a two-tire stop, and after fuel and a track bar adjustment too, Ragan restarted 12th. He continued to fight handling issues and no matter what adjustments Wingo told the crew to make, nothing seemed to give Ragan the grip he needed. On lap 124, Ragan thought he had a tire going down. Just two laps later, he made an unscheduled green-flag stop for four tires and fuel. The UPS crew discovered a small hole in the left-front tire which was slowly causing the tire to go down. Ragan lost a lap during that stop, but it was a necessary move to keep Ragan’s day from ending early. When the caution came out again on lap 138, Ragan was able to get back on the lead lap due to being in the Lucky Dog position. Since he really had nothing to lose, Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. He was 21st for the restart with 18 laps remaining. Just a few laps later, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made contact, both ending up at the entrance to pit road to bring out the final caution of the race. In a last ditch effort to gain track position, Ragan opted not to pit. It was a move that, after looking back on it, probably wasn’t the best idea. Ragan fought hard against drivers who had pitted and had fresher tires in the closing laps. He held on to finish 20th. Ragan gained one position in the standings, up to 24th.
With two second-place finishes at Indianapolis, Matt Kenseth was looking to do better than that on Sunday. During all four practice sessions, Kenseth and his crew focused on the handling of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford. Usually an early draw isn’t exactly a good thing for qualifying, but for Kenseth, it worked in his favor on Saturday. As the temperature continued to climb during qualifying, the track became slicker for the drivers who had the late draws. Kenseth started Sunday’s race in the 13th position so he was well ahead of the multi-car incident in turn two. After the restart, Kenseth informed crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the No. 17 Ford was lacking grip and was tight in the center of the turns. Kenseth pitted for two tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted 6th and was soon up to 4th, reporting his car was handling pretty well. However, it turned out Kenseth’s car was good on the short runs, but the longer runs seemed to leave Kenseth looking for more front grip as the laps wore on. Green-flag stops began around lap 47. Kenseth made his stop on lap 49 for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. Once the stops cycled through, he was 12th. The car began to get loose, and as the race progressed, the Crown Royal crew made adjustments when they could. However, the crew battled the handling issues all night due to the fact the car’s handling was always changing. Track bar and air pressure adjustments were the changes that seemed to help Kenseth out, but he still had to fight for position. Kenseth was 16th for the final restart and was able to gain four positions to finish 12th. He remained 8th in the standings.
With 2 wins in the Nationwide series, Carl Edwards has been on the hunt for a Cup win. He and his crew hoped to get that win an Indianapolis. Edwards qualified 19th on Saturday, but had a minor setback in the early laps of the race. On lap 10, he had to make a pit stop under green so his crew could clean the dirt from the grille of the No. 99 Aflac Ford that was causing the engine to overheat. Edwards fell to 36th after that stop, but it didn’t slow him down. He pitted under the caution on lap 15 and his crew added water to the car. Edwards was 28th for the restart, and by lap 22, was up to 19th. As a long green-flag run went on, Edwards reported his car was loose in and off the turns, tight in the center. The Aflac crew made wedge and air pressure adjustments when they could to improve the car’s handling. The changes appeared to work as Edwards got up to 14th by lap 88. Edwards stayed out when a second round of green-flag stops began to lead lap 99. With 50 laps remaining, he had cracked the top ten. When the caution came out for debris on lap 118, he pitted for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment. His crew performed a flawless 12.6-second stop and helped him pick up four positions on pit road. Edwards was holding his own in the 9th position with 25 laps to go, but crew chief Bob Osborne informed Edwards that he would be about eight laps short on fuel. The yellow flag waved again on lap 138, and with just over 20 laps left in the race, it would put everyone on equal ground as far as fuel mileage would go. Edwards pitted, but was 11th on the restart due to the first six drivers off pit road making a two-tire stop while Edwards took four tires. As soon as the green flag waved again, he began to make a charge through the field. Then a few laps later, the caution was brought out by Montoya and Earnhardt, Jr. getting together. Edwards was 10th for the final restart and picked up three positions to finish 7th. He remained 10th in the standings.
Greg Biffle came to Indianapolis hoping to improve from where he’d left off at Chicagoland two weeks ago. Biffle had felt he had a top-five car at Chicagoland, but things didn’t turn out the way he hoped. However, he felt the same way leading up to the race this past Sunday. He finished 4th at the Brickyard last season and was looking to better that result this time around. While practice didn’t seem to go so well for Biffle, he managed a quick qualifying lap that left him starting 7th on Sunday. From the drop of the green flag, Biffle began to make his move toward the front. He had cracked the top five just 8 laps into the race. He pitted for four tires and fuel under the caution on lap 15. The crew made no adjustments to the car since Biffle was happy with the handling on the No. 16 3M/Pistonz Ford. He restarted 9th, and since some teams had only took two tires, it didn’t take long for Biffle to get by them. He had worked his way up to 2nd by lap 38 and took the lead on lap 63 after a round of green-flag stops. Biffle held onto the lead until green-flag stops began again on lap 97. He told crew chief Greg Erwin that the car was a bit too loose. Biffle headed for pit road for his scheduled stop on lap 98, but as he was entering his pit stall, he got hit by Brad Keselowski, who was exiting his. The contact caused minor damage, but it held Biffle up long enough for Montoya to take the lead. He was 2nd once the stops cycled through. When the caution came out around lap 118 for debris, Biffle pitted for four tires, fuel, and some adjustments since the car was a little loose. Biffle’s crew sent him out in the 2nd position for the restart. Biffle was passed by Jamie McMurray before they even completed a lap after the restart. Biffle remained third and pitted under the caution on lap 138, but restarted 8th due to six drivers ahead of him making a two-tire stop. Biffle was 5th when the final caution of the day came out. The green flag waved for the last time and Biffle was able to make his way to the 3rd position. While he made a valiant attempt to get the lead, Biffle just couldn’t get past Kevin Harvick to get to McMurray. Biffle finished 3rd, which is his best finish at Indianapolis. He remained 11th in the standings.
While Biffle proved to be Roush Fenway Racing’s dark horse on Sunday, he couldn’t quite make his way back to the front to claim the win. It was former Roush Fenway Racing driver Jamie McMurray who was kissing the bricks when all was said and done. McMurray’s win added his name not only to the list of winners at Indianapolis, but also to the list of drivers who have won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same season. He is only the third driver to ever do so. Congratulations to Jamie McMurray and the No. 1 team on their historic victory!
Next up: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway