Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN — September 11, 2019
The Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard put on a great show for the fans. NASCAR’s 2019 competition package made for tight racing as drivers jockeyed for positions and playoff seedings all day.
With the Brickyard’s race date change to the 4th of July weekend in 2020 fan interest should increase and the prospect of a rainout diminish. Scary radar images for Sunday afternoon produced a couple of sprinkles before and after the race, but no serious threat to the activities on track.
Jimmie Johnson missed the playoffs for the first time in his career. Starting the race 18 points behind the bubble was too big a deficit to overcome in one start. Johnson actually fell from playoff contention over the last couple of months with poor finishes uncharacteristic of the seven-time champion. Still trying to break a winless streak that dates back to 2017. Johnson’s crew chief Cliff Daniels was heard on the team’s radio to say, “I promise you guys our season is not done.” Johnson’s career may be fading to black if he can’t find a way to win during the remainder of this year or in 2020.
Brad Keselowski got his car out of shape getting tangled with Erik Jones and slid across the track into a tire barrier on the exit of the infield road course. Then Keselowski got himself out of shape when commenting about ending up on his side and having to crawl out of the car using his arm for support on the pavement. “There is this spot on the wall with just an atrocious angle. I don’t know what that spot is for but it does not need to be there, but we found it. That is how racing goes.
When told that the NBC announcers commented that given the angle of the wall it was a good spot for a tire barrier. Keselowski responded, “That is an interesting conclusion. I am not sure I agree with that. I think there probably should not be weird angles like that to wreck on.” Had the car slammed the wall sideways, even with a safer barrier it is doubtful Keselowski would have been happy with that outcome. The video pretty much sums it up, the tire barrier did its job well.
Clint Bowyer deserves a call-out. Entering the race just eight points ahead of the bubble he needed a strong run to preserve a playoff spot. Bowyer finished 5th, assuring that he would be racing in the postseason this weekend at Las Vegas.
Likewise, Bubba Wallace took advantage of some late-race pit strategy to gain track position and then held off all challengers while earning a 3rd place finish. His best race since coming in 2nd in the 2018 Daytona 500. Giving the King’s #43 a rare top 5 finish.
Kevin Harvick has two beautiful children who presented cameramen loads of picture opportunities during the post-race celebration. Keelan wearing multiple hats and little red-headed Piper doing her own thing while everyone else kissed the bricks.
Lastly, Tony Stewart joined the celebration to climb the fence with his Stewart-Haas Race Team and Ford Performance head man Mark Rushbrook picked out his brick to smooch.
Just 16 drivers have a shot at the coveted title of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion. Nearly half the contenders drive Ford Mustangs. Every member of Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR Cup team earned a spot in the playoffs. Who’s the favorite to win the 2019 Championship?
Kyle Busch, the regular season Champion has enough playoff points to most likely carry him through early rounds, even with a bad race. Look for him to be one of the four racing it out at Homestead. Kevin Harvick is the hottest driver over the last two months winning three of the last seven races. Denny Hamlin could breakthrough for his 1st Cup Championship and Joey Logano is a good pick to go back-to-back. Those are my picks for the final race.
FULL 2019 PLAYOFF FIELD
1. Kyle Busch, 2,045 points
2. Denny Hamlin, 2,030 points
3. Martin Truex Jr., 2,029 points
4. Kevin Harvick, 2,028 points
5. Joey Logano, 2,028 points
6. Brad Keselowski, 2,024 points
7. Chase Elliott, 2,018 points
8. Kurt Busch, 2,011 points
9. Alex Bowman, 2,005 points
10. Erik Jones, 2,005 points
11. Kyle Larson, 2,005 points
12. Ryan Blaney, 2,004 points
13. William Byron, 2,001 points
14. Aric Almirola, 2,001 points
15. Clint Bowyer, 2,000 points
16. Ryan Newman, 2,000 points
Who are the drivers that will drop out after the 1st round of the playoffs? Ryan Newman is the most obvious choice, barely squeaking into the postseason after outrunning Daniel Suarez at the Brickyard. Aric Almirola has been consistent but not able to run up front since early in the year. William Byron and Ryan Blaney are a couple of young guns that could surprise, but most likely in future year playoff runs.
It all starts this Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway under the lights. A 7:15 pm Eastern Time start will kick off the first of 3 races before eliminations occur. The short-track at Richmond Raceway and the Roval at Charlotte complete the round of 16.