Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Up to Speed – Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

The 2017 calendar has reached mid-July and with it comes one of the marquee events on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, the Brickyard 400 at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This year’s Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 marks just seven races remaining in the regular season, making Indianapolis a crucial stop in determining who will be in the playoffs and who will be on the outside looking in.

First joining the circuit in 1994, the track has provided some classic moments and some that the powers that be would rather forget. The track’s relatively flat surface, combined with narrow corners and high speeds, makes passing a premium on the 2.5 mile circuit. Even though the racing at the Brickyard can be sleep inducing at times, as the track was built for IndyCar and not big, heavy stock cars, drivers still have a win at this track high on their list because of one thing…it’s Indianapolis.

This weekend’s race will also be the final time the race will be contested in the blazing heat of summer as the race gets moved to the cooler temperatures of September and the regular season finale next season.

By the Numbers

Opened: 1909 (First NASCAR race: 1994)

Track/Race Length: 2.5 mile quad-oval (160 laps, 400 miles)

Banking: Nine degrees in turns, flat straightaways

Stage Lengths: 50 laps (Stage 1 and 2), Final stage: 60 laps

2016 Race Winner: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota (Started on pole, 149 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford (47.647 seconds, 188.889 mph – 07/25/2014)

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings:

  • Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 105.7 – 4 wins
  • Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 105.5 – 2 wins
  • Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 104.8 – Best finish: 5th
  • Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota – 98.3 – Best finish: 2nd
  • Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 97.1 – 1 win
  • Kasey Kahne – No. 5 Chevrolet – 95.0 – Best finish: 2nd
  • Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 92.4 – Best finish: 3rd
  • Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 90.1 – Best finish: 2nd
  • Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 88.3 – Best finish: 9th
  • Clint Bowyer – No. 14 Ford – 82.4 – Best finish: 4th

From the Driver’s Seat

“It’s such a tough race to win,” said Kasey Kahne. “Track position has gotten to the point where it’s everything at Indianapolis. Indy just isn’t what it used to be in 2004 and 2005, even in 2006. I came from the back in 2004 and during the last half of the race you could actually pass pretty easy when you had a good car. You could run the outside lane or the inside. Now you have about two inches and if you miss those two inches in the center of the corner, you really have to be watching behind yourself because you’re probably going to get passed. It’s still a race I really want to win because it has so much history and it’s how I got all of my racing going. I watched all of the races there for Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR and I also raced all around the Indy area for three straight years.”

Last Time at Indianapolis

Kyle Busch made it back to back wins in the Brickyard 400 last season by holding off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth over the course of four late race restarts that pushed the race past its scheduled 400 mile distance. Busch dominated the day, starting on pole and leading 149 of the eventual 170 laps in the event.

Following Busch and Kenseth across the line was Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Larson.

“This Skittles Camry was awesome,” said Busch. “I can’t thank everyone from Skittles enough and everyone from M&M’s and their 75th anniversary year this season with us. Of course Interstate Batteries. This Toyota was awesome today, it was just so fast and able to get out front and stay out front. Not even some of my teammates could challenge. This was hooked up and on rails. I can’t say enough about Sprint and everything they’ve done for our sport. Of course the fans – thank everyone for being here and everyone watching on TV – you guys are awesome. We appreciate all of our partners at Joe Gibbs Racing. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and these guys are a phenomenal group and I’m proud to be with them. It’s fun to come out here and have such a dominant piece at Indy. They don’t come along often so I was just hoping I didn’t screw it up.”

In their final Brickyard 400 starts, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon finished 11th and 13th, respectively, and both drivers would drive around the track in a parade lap side-by-side after the race was over to salute the fans.

“It was cool,” said Stewart. “I knew when we got the checkered we just didn’t want to come in just yet.  I wanted to run one more lap and Jeff was around us and before that last green run I told my spotter to go get his spotter and said after this thing is over, we need to go a lap around here together because most likely is the last time we’ll both get a chance to do that. I couldn’t think of a better guy to share that moment with than Jeff.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Saturday, July 22

  • MENCS Practice (9:00 am to 9:55 am – CNBC)
  • MENCS Final Practice (11:00 am to 11:55 am – CNBC)
  • MENCS Qualifying (After Xfinity race, 6:15 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Sunday, July 23

  • MENCS Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 (2:30 pm – 160 laps, 400 miles – NBC)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.