It’s that time of year. Mid summer. That means that this week the eyes of the motorsports world will once again be on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400, pardon me, I mean the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400. Yep, Crown Royal has retired as the race sponsor. This will be the last time that the Brickyard will be run in the heat of July. The race will move to September in 2018.That’s September 9, which could conflict with the Colts season opener. Kyle Busch is the defending champion. As a matter of fact Mr. Busch has won the last two runnings of the Brickyard. He also started from the pole last year. He will be back in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota trying to be the first three-in-a-row winner. For the first time neither Jeff Gordon nor Tony Stewart will be in the starting field. Stewart has two wins and a pole position to his Brickyard credit, but it’s Jeff who has made the race his own. He has the most wins here with five. He has three pole position starts. He has led the most laps with 528. He has driven the most laps in competition with 3519. He owns just about every record there is at the Brickyard. Oh, BTW, Jeff will be handling the pace car during the race. Tony Stewart will be in the pits managing his team so neither man has abandoned the race. This will be the last time that Dale Earnhardt Jr. competes in the Brickyard, having announced his retirement after the 2017 season is complete. Earnhardt has never won at the Brickyard. The Hendricks Motorsports Team has the most wins with nine. The Chevrolet racing engine has powered the most winners with sixteen.
The race usually runs 160 laps, but because of the yellow-white-checkered flag rule a race cannot be finished under a yellow caution light. Last year because of a late crash in lap 160, the race was completed under a yellow light. As the safety crew cleaned the track the cars held position and waited for the green flag to start them racing again. The flag came out on lap 168, and Busch got the white flag indicating he had one more lap to run and took the checkered flag on lap 170 for the win. So 2016 was really the Brickyard 415 mile race. The longest ever.
Currently Martin Truex Jr. driving the #78 Toyota for the Furniture Row Racing Team is the Energy Cup points leader with 758 championship points and has the most wins with three. Kyle Larson driving the #42 Chevy for Chip Ganassi racing is in second with two wins and 720 points. The race has, however, produced it’s share of surprises. Last week at Loudon, New Hampshire, Denny Hamlin driving the Joe Gibbs Racing #11 Toyota won the Overton 301 race for his first victory of the season.
Friday the 400 Fest will begin at 11:00 a.m. and be capped by a concert in the Speedway Museum at 7:00 p.m. ending at 10:00 p.m. Saturday the Lily Diabetes 250 will be run. Qualifying will begin at 12:30 p.m. and the green flag will wave at 3:49 p.m and run 100 laps. Qualifying for the Brickyard will begin at 6:15 p.m. There will be a second Fest Concert at 7:00 p.m Saturday. The Brickyard 400 will start at 2:49 p.m. All in all, a big weekend of, fun, frolic, and red hot racing here in the Circle City.
Honda Indy Toronto
Last Sunday, the IndyCar boys ran at the Exhibition Place Road Course in Toronto, Ontario Canada. The 85 lap event saw Simon Pagenand start from the pole in his Team Penske Dallara Chevy with Graham Rahal next to him. It was Pagenand’s first pole of the 2017 season. As the green flag fell, Helio Castroneves, starting third, made an ultra slick move around both Rahal and Pagenand to take the lead. However, almost immediately, Will Power made hard contact with Scott Dixon which resulted in serious damage to both cars. Dixon limped to the pits and required some major repairs that put him far back in the field. Power was done for the day and finished 21st and last.
Castroneves was in control until the first series of pit stops and then his teammate Josef Newgarden took the lead. Newgarden won there last year and seems to have a strong feel for the course. The real interest in the race was to watch Scott Dixon and Castroneves duel for the point lead. Helios’ victory at Iowa the week before had put him within 8 points of leader Dixon. Now Dixon was stuck back in the pack with a damaged car. However, after the first round of pit stops Helio appeared to get stuck in mid-pack and could not seen to break into a challenging position
In the last third of the race Alexander Rossi in his #98 Honda took second place and stayed there. Newgarden was never seriously challenged and took an easy win. He and Rossi had finished 1-2 in last year at Toronto. During the course of the race Ryan Hunter-Reay were dueling for position of 5th place. Going into a turn Pagenand went under Hunter-Reay and banged his right side pod to take 5th. Hunter-Reay returned the favor on the front stretch by roaring by Pagenand and banging his left side pod to to gain 5th. Pagenand ultimately prevailed and finished 5th. As to Dixon and Castroneves. Dixon was ultimately about to keep his car going and finish 10th. Helio finished 8th. He is now within 3 points of Dixon. The next stop is the Honda Indy 200 on July 30th at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course at Lexington Ohio.