Indy Brickyard 400 Goes to Harvick, NASCAR Playoff Drivers Set

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN — September 8, 2019

It’s bubble day at Indy. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2019 regular season comes to a close today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Four guys are battling for the final two postseason positions in the 16 driver playoff field.

Clint Bowyer(14), Daniel Suarez(41), Ryan Newman(6), and Jimmie Johnson(48) hope to grab one of the two spots left. They also hope a surprise winner, a driver who has not visited victory lane this year and is out of the top 16, does not cut the available spots to a single position open on points.

Jimmie Johnson faces the possibility of missing the NASCAR Playoffs for the first time in his career. / Lasco Press Photo

Fourteen drivers have clinched a playoff spot. But, each one of them wants a Brickyard win on their resume. This year’s competition package is similar to what the NASCAR Xfinity Series has run here the last two years. The racing has been good hopefully, it carries over to the Cup Series. An exciting and competitive race would be a big help to attendance figures at the speedway.

The Favorites

Kyle Busch won the Xfinity race here yesterday for the 3rd time in his career. Twice he followed up the next day with a victory in the Brickyard 400. He lines up 7th for the start of today’s race.

Kyle Busch / Lasco Press Photo

Kevin Harvick(4) starts on the pole after grabbing the top spot during an unusual race day qualifying session.

Kevin Harvick at Indy / Lasco Press Photo

Denny Hamlin, who has been a hot driver in the latter part of the season wrecked on the last lap of practice Saturday.

Hamlin was forced into his backup car, with qualifying Sunday he did not have to worry about being sent to the rear of the field. Unfortunately, he was only able to record the 33rd fastest speed and will have to work his way through a long line of cars while making adjustments on pit stops.

The Start

Harvick and Paul Menard(21) lead the field to the green flag. Four Ford Mustangs paced the lineup with Bowyer and Joey Logano(22) in row two. Harvick made quick work of Menard and fought off a brief challenge from Logano before establishing the lead. Stages for today’s race are 50/50/60 laps

Paul Menard in the famous Wood Brothers 21 Ford Mustang / Lasco Press Photo

Stage 1

Suarez hit the wall 10 laps into the race, flattening the right side of his race car. His crew was able to repair the damage but, it dealt a serious blow to his chances of making the playoffs.

Daniel Suarez suffers damage early dimming his hopes of making the playoffs. / Lasco Press Photo

During the caution flag, everyone drove to the pits for tires and gas. In a jumble near Johnson’s pit, Chase Elliott(9) got turned backward on pit road. He suffered minor cosmetic damage which will mess with the aero of the car for the remainder of the day. Martin Truex Jr.(19) also suffered damage to the left front of his car in a pit road incident.

A pit road accident damaged Martin Truex Car on his first stop and made for a long day on the track. He finished 27th. / Lasco Press Photo

Harvick and Brad Keselowski(2), last year’s winner, led the field back to the restart. Harvick again drove away at the drop of the green adding to his laps led total.

Landon Cassill(00) had a tire go down on Lap 41 bringing out the 2nd caution of the day. Hard impact with the wall ended Cassill’s day, thankfully he was able to walk away from the incident.

Stage Ending Excitement

With the end of Stage 1 just a few laps away, the yellow flag resulting from Cassill’s wreck brought Stage point strategy into play. Most of the field pitted, Logano stayed out and inherited the lead. Newman stayed out, hoping to gain valuable Stage points for a top 10 finish. Johnson pitted but only took 2 tires and he exited the pits first.

The lineup heading to the restart featured Logano in first, Newman 2nd, and Johnson in 3rd. Kyle Larson(42) and Harvick rounded out the top 5. The strategy looked questionable as cars with newer tires began passing Newman and Johnson.

Joey Logano / Lasco Press Photo

Last week’s winner, Erik Jones(20) dove inside Keselowski trying to gain track position. Jones car wiggled and he lost control, he collected Keselowski and they both hit the outer wall. Jones backed in and Keselowski bounced off heading for the inside wall. Brad’s car made contact where the road course exits onto the oval at a dangerous angle.

That section of the track is protected by a tire barrier. Keselowski hit it and ended up on the tires with the driver’s side of his car trackside down. There was just enough room for him to escape the race car. Both vehicles were destroyed, both drivers walked away from the wreck minor bumps and bruises.

The wreck brought out the caution just before the conclusion of the Stage, freezing the runner order and assuring Logano of the Stage win. After the green and white checkered flag was displayed, the race was red-flagged while track crews reconstructed the tire barrier.

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
22 Joey Logano* 10
42 Kyle Larson 9
4 Kevin Harvick* 8
12 Ryan Blaney* 7
6 Ryan Newman* 6
48 Jimmie Johnson 5
18 Kyle Busch 4
11 Denny Hamlin 3
88 Alex Bowman 2
37 Chris Buescher 1

* Ford Mustang Drivers

Newman was able to hold onto 5th place, with Johnson one position back in 6th. Denny Hamlin worked his way into 8th after starting 33rd. Logano picked up the 10 bonus points for the Stage win, more importantly, he also got the single playoff point that accompanies it.

Ryan Newman / Lasco Press Photo

Stage 2

Larson led as the race went back to green. Harvick, Ryan Blaney(12), and Kyle Busch(18) followed, racing side-by-side through Turn 3. When they exited Turn 4 it was Harvick, Blaney, Larson, and Busch.

Harvick had led for 70 laps when he gave up the top spot to make a green-flag pit stop on Lap 85. Kyle Bush pitted and after returning to the track had his engine expire while getting back up to speed. He coasted to pit road and exited the car with flames billowing out from under the hood. Kyle had already clinched the regular-season championship at Darlington, so the early exit did not change his standings in the points race.

With the yellow coming out during the pit stop cycle it scrambled the standings. Johnson held the top spot when the caution displayed. But, pitting during the caution put him behind the drivers who had already pitted and stayed out. Bad racing luck.

Another short run to the end of the Stage, the green flag for the restart flew on Lap 95 with Harvick leading Larson, Blaney, and Kurt Busch(1). Before the pack returned to the start-finish line the caution flew again for debris in Turn 2, ending Stage Two under the yellow flag also.

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
4 Kevin Harvick* 10
42 Kyle Larson 9
12 Ryan Blaney* 8
22 Joey Logano* 7
14 Clint Bowyer* 6
41 Daniel Suarez* 5
1 Kurt Busch 4
48 Jimmie Johnson 3
24 William Byron 2
10 Aric Almirola* 1

* Ford Mustang Drivers

At the end of the Stage, the Playoff Point standings for 15th place to 18th stood as follows in relation to the cut line.

  • Bowyer 15th, +15 points
  • Suarez 16th, +5 points
  • Newman 17th, -5 points
  • Johnson 18, -17 points

The Final Stage

Harvick and Larson led the pack into Turn 1 on the restart. Johnson, William Byron(24) and Kurt Busch tried to navigate Turn 2 three-wide. Busch, running slower on the outside, caused Byron, in the middle, to pinch down on Johnson, who ran out of room on the bottom. Johnson spun clipping Busch, while Larson escaped and drove away. The wreck caught up a number of other competitors. Menard, Buescher, Daniel Hemric(8), Parker Klingerman(96), and Matt Tift(36) picked up some degree of damage in the incident.

Johnson’s car came out the biggest loser in the crash. The damage was too extensive for his crew to the repair. The car was retired and so were Johnson’s playoff hopes. The first time in his career that Jimmie Johnson has not qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs.

The Final Stage resumed with Harvick in front, followed by Blaney, Logano, Kurt Busch, and Byron. With Johnson out and Bowyer well-positioned, the final playoff spot was up for grabs between Suarez and Newman. They started the race tied for the last spot. Newman earned six points at the end of Stage 1, Suarez picked up five at the end of Stage 2. Currently, Suarez owns the tie-breaker based on his best finish of the year. A 3rd at Texas in March. Essentially whoever finishes the highest in this race will earn the last spot.

Trouble Sets Up a Short Run to the Finish

Kyle Larson got loose coming out of Turn 2 and crashed on Lap 128.

Drivers were in the middle of green-flag pit stops so positions were scrambled again. When the race restarted, it was Harvick, Blaney, Logano, Bubba Wallace(43) and Alex Bowman as the top 5.

Wallace, the real wild card, does not have a victory this season and is out of the points chase. A win by the Richard Petty Motorsports driver would be huge for the team and a blow to the playoff bubble chasers.

Bubba Wallace in Richard Petty’s famous #43 / Lasco Press Photo

On Lap 134, Bowman crashed exiting Turn 2 bringing out another caution. The race went back to green with 21 laps to go. Harvick, Blaney, Wallace, Logano, and Newman making up the top 5.

On Lap 146, Matt Tift hit the wall and the yellow flag waved again. Setting up an intense scrimmage for the final nine laps. Harvick, Logano, Wallace, Blaney, and Hamlin lead the pack to the restart. Newman in 7th and Suarez in 12th are close enough to possibly mix it up before the checkered flag displays.

The Finish

On the final restart, Logano made a bid for the lead down the backstretch and Harvick almost ran him into the grass. Harvick cleared everyone out of Turn 3 and began to build the lead back across the line of bricks. Bowyer, in the top 10, was just looking to avoid trouble. Suarez could not make a serious run at Newman with too many cars between them. Harvick crosses the line first with Logano in 2nd and Bubba Wallace taking 3rd.

Harvick’s win sends him into the playoffs on a bit of a roll. Logano, last year’s Cup Champion will undoubtedly contend round-by-round and would surprise no one if he is in the finale at Homestead.

Team owner Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, son Keelan, wife DeLana, and crew chief Rodney Childers kiss the bricks after Harvicks Indy win. Daughter Piper looks more interest in the Trophy. / Lasco Press Photo

The Playoffs Lineup is Set

Bowyer and Newman are in, Suarez and Johnson are out. In another testament to the competitiveness of the Cup Series, four points left Suarez on the outside looking in. Johnson missed by 43 points after finishing 35th.

The final tally for the regular season looks like this.

Rank Driver Points To Cut Line Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Points
1 Kyle Busch 988 In 4 10 30
2 Joey Logano 971 In 2 8 18
3 Kevin Harvick 922 In 3 5 20
4 Denny Hamlin 911 In 4 3 23
5 Martin Truex Jr. 872 In 4 3 23
6 Brad Keselowski 833 In 3 4 19
7 Chase Elliott 808 In 2 4 14
8 Kurt Busch 801 In 1 3 8
9 Ryan Blaney 755 In 0 2 4
10 Kyle Larson 736 In 0 4 4
11 William Byron 718 In 0 1 1
12 Alex Bowman 712 In 1 0 5
13 Aric Almirola 698 In 0 1 1
14 Erik Jones 695 In 1 0 5
15 Clint Bowyer 663 In 0 0 0
16 Ryan Newman 652 In 0 0 0
17 Daniel Suarez 648 -4 0 0 0
18 Jimmie Johnson 609 -43 0 1 1
19 Paul Menard 575 -77 0 0 0
20 Chris Buescher 554 -98 0 0 0

 

The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Drivers / Lasco Press Photo

 

 

Results of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard

Position Car DRIVER Behind Laps
1 4 Kevin Harvick 160
2 22 Joey Logano 6.118 160
3 43 Bubba Wallace 8.026 160
4 24 William Byron 8.191 160
5 14 Clint Bowyer 8.559 160
6 11 Denny Hamlin 9.019 160
7 12 Ryan Blaney 9.764 160
8 6 Ryan Newman 11.214 160
9 9 Chase Elliott 12.192 160
10 21 Paul Menard 12.562 160
11 41 Daniel Suarez 12.678 160
12 3 Austin Dillon 13.251 160
13 13 Ty Dillon 13.378 160
14 10 Aric Almirola 15.523 160
15 37 Chris Buescher 15.552 160
16 47 Ryan Preece 15.697 160
17 34 Michael McDowell 16.312 160
18 95 Matt DiBenedetto 16.482 160
19 32 Corey LaJoie 17.184 160
20 38 David Ragan 17.373 160
21 88 Alex Bowman 29.752 160
22 77 Reed Sorenson 33.807 159
23 15 Ross Chastain 43.324 159
24 27 Ryan Sieg -3 157
25 51 BJ McLeod -3 157
26 54 JJ Yeley -3 157
27 19 Martin Truex Jr -4 156
28 52 Garrett Smithley -4 156
29 53 Josh Bilicki -6 154
30 1 Kurt Busch -6 154
31 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr -8 152
32 36 Matt Tifft -13 147
33 42 Kyle Larson -31 129
34 8 Daniel Hemric -51 109
35 48 Jimmie Johnson -55 105
36 96 Parker Kligerman -56 104
37 18 Kyle Busch -73 87
38 2 Brad Keselowski -112 48
39 20 Erik Jones -112 48
40 00 Landon Cassill -120 40