For the second year in a row, Indianapolis Motor Speedway — the most iconic venue in motorsports — played host to the last race of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season. This year, with only 2 remaining spots available for the playoffs, four drivers walked into Indy on the playoff bubble — Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman, and Jimmie Johnson. Most people predicted a relatively tame race with only those four drivers making aggressive and desperate moves. Surprisingly, however, the Brickyard 400 quickly turned into one of the wildest races of the season.
LAP 1: Kevin Harvick earned P1 in qualifying and pulled away when the green flag flew as the rest of the field fanned out behind him.
CAUTION – LAP 10: Daniel Suarez overshot the exit of Turn 2 and slammed the wall, damaging the right side of his #41 Ford Mustang. Once his team made repairs, Suarez was able to continue racing but he was in the 22nd position.
The entire field came to pit road under the yellow flag which caused a massive pile-up as everyone tried to get to their pitstalls. It started when Chase Elliott was turned by Austin Dillon and the incident collected Bubba Wallace, Martin Truex Jr, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and others.
CAUTION – LAP 41: Landon Cassill’s #00 had a right front tire go down and shot straight into the wall in Turn 1. Cassill made extremely heavy contact that totalled the car, even crushing the roof. During pit stops under yellow, Harvick, who had led the entire race until that point, stayed out which allowed Joey Logano to pick up the lead.
CAUTION – LAP 48: While racing for points at the end of the stage, Erik Jones in the #20 dove to the inside of the #2 of Brad Keselowski. Jones got loose and slid up the track as Keselowski turned down. The two collided as Jones spun around and slammed the outside wall with the rear end of his car. Keselowski hit the outside wall as well before shooting to the bottom of the track and violently hitting a tire barrier in Turn 2. Keselowski’s #2 was flipped on it’s side in dramatic fashion. Thankfully, he was able to get out of the car and was checked and released from the infield care centre. The race was red flagged for nearly 15 minutes as maintenance crews tried to repair the wall.
STAGE 1 END – LAP 50: The stage ended under caution, with Joey Logano receiving the playoff point associated with the stage win. Logano then lost the lead to Kevin Harvick on pit road .
LAP 80: Harvick surrendered the lead to Kyle Larson when he went to pit road under green conditions. Over the next few laps, the rest of the field also made their scheduled stops.
CAUTION – LAP 88: One lap after his pit stop, Kyle Busch’s engine expired on the back straightaway. Busch’s #18 Toyota limped back to pit road in a rolling ball of smoke, where it eventually came to a stop in the middle of the pit lane. This triggered the caution.
CAUTION – LAP 95: The yellow flew for debris, which turned out to be a rather large piece of sheet metal that flew off a car in Turn 2.
STAGE 2 END – LAP 100: The segment ended under caution with Kevin Harvick in the lead and claiming the playoff point.
CAUTION – LAP 104: On the restart, drivers became overly aggresive, going 3-wide into Turn 4 as William Byron found himself sandwiched between Kurt Busch on the top and Jimmie Johnson on the bottom. Johnson clipped the apron and a corner of the infield grass which sent his #48 sideways and into the outside wall. Kurt Busch was collected as was Paul Menard, Daniel Hemric, Parker Kligerman, Chris Buescher, and Matt Tifft.
The incident ended Johnson’s day along with his chance at making the playoffs. This is the first time in 15 years that Johnson has not raced for a championship. With Johnson now scratched from the list of four drivers fighting for their place in the playoffs, and Clint Bowyer now safely inside the bubble as he had run inside the Top 10 most of the day, it left only Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez to battle it out.
CAUTION – LAP 128: Kyle Larson got loose in Turn 2 and shot straight for the inside wall. Larson made hard contact that destroyed the left side of his #42 Chevrolet Camaro. The damage somehow cut the right front tire and it began to shred on his way to pit road, ripping open the right side of the hood.
It was around this time everyone became aware that Bubba Wallace in Richard Petty’s #43 Mustang was running in the Top 10 and was quickly charging for the front. Wallace became one of the most surprising headlines of the afternoon as he made one of the biggest runs of his career.
CAUTION – LAP 134: While racing for position, Denny Hamlin aggressively squeezed Alex Bowman against the wall. Bowman’s #88 Chevrolet Camaro got loose and spun to the inside of the backstraight, making contact heavy enough that he bounced off the tire barrier.
CAUTION – LAP 146: With just 14 laps remaining in the race, the final yellow flag waved for Matt Tifft in the #36 who hit the wall in Turn 1.
Daniel Suarez chose not to pit for new tires as he felt it would put him too far back in the field to catch Ryan Newman who Suarez was racing against for the final spot in the playoffs. When the race restarted with 10 laps to go, Suarez needed to make up 6 positions and pass Newman in order to make the playoffs.
LAP 156: With 4 laps to go, Austin Dillon pulled out of the way of Daniel Suarez and gave up the position in an effort to help Suarez catch Newman. This was a highly unexpected and gracious move considering Dillon and Suarez are not teammates nor do they drive for the same manufacturer. Meanwhile, Bubba Wallace comfortably ran P3 as fans and commentators wondered aloud if he might charge for the front and become the biggest upset to the playoff standings.
CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 160: Kevin Harvick crossed the line over 3 seconds head of Joey Logano in P2. Unfortuately for Suarez, he was not able to make up the 6 positions so Ryan Newman secured the final spot in the playoffs.
ROUND OF 16 DRIVERS: Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott.
- Kevin Harvick
- Joey Logano
- Bubba Wallace
- William Byron
- Clint Bowyer
- Denny Hamlin
- Ryan Blaney
- Ryan Newman
- Chase Elliott
- Paul Menard
- Daniel Suarez
- Austin Dillon
- Ty Dillon
- Aric Almirola
- Chris Buescher
- Ryan Preece
- Michael McDowell
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Corey LaJoie
- David Ragan
- Alex Bowman
- Ross Chastain
- Reed Sorenson
- Ryan Sieg
- BJ Mcleod
- JJ Yeley
- Martin Truex Jr
- Garrett Smithley
- Josh Biliki
- Kurt Busch
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr
- Matt Tifft
- Kyle Larson
- Daniel Hemric
- Jimmie Johnson
- Parker Kligerman
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Keselowski
- Erik Jones
- Landon Cassill