Race at Brickyard has new name, same prestige

By Pete Pistone  () 

The official name for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered By Big Machine Records. But to most fans it will always be the Brickyard 400.

 

Although the race has a new name as well as a different date, with the Brickyard inheriting the Fourth of July weekend spot that had been held by Daytona for so many years, it remains a crown jewel on the NASCAR schedule. Winning at Indianapolis is still a prestigious achievement in all of auto racing, and in NASCAR it began when Jeff Gordon took the inaugural win in 1994.

 

Last week’s trip to the unique triangle-shaped Pocono Raceway is followed by Sunday’s geometry lesson and the flat, four-cornered rectangle that is Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams will employ the same rules package as at last year’s Brickyard, which in theory will create tight packs of cars in the draft, particularly after restarts.

 

More often than not, strategy has proven to be the deciding factor at Indy. Fuel mileage will play into the equation thanks to the typical long green-flag runs. Because cars tend to get strung out after the tightly packed restarts, caution flags are usually few and far between.

 

Once again practice and qualifying will not happen, so starting spots will come from a random draw based on the point standings, a format NASCAR has used since its return. However, track position has not been a major factor in deciding the outcome, though four drivers have won from the pole. The possibility of rolling the dice on a late-race strategy for fuel and tires to gain spots on track or outlast the competition has factored into drivers starting as far back as 24th winning the race.

 

Here’s a look at some of the favorites Sunday:

 

KEVIN HARVICK

The NASCAR Cup Series points leader comes to Indianapolis on a roll. Harvick won his third race of the season in Saturday’s opening race of the historic Pocono doubleheader and came back to finish second in Sunday’s finale. He has the best average finish among drivers at Indianapolis over the last 10 races at 7.3, and Harvick has posted six straight top-10s at the track, including his victory in last year’s race.

 

DENNY HAMLIN

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver leads the Cup Series with four victories, his latest coming Sunday at Pocono. Hamlin was second in Saturday’s opener and has finished in the top two four times this season. Although he has not yet won at Indianapolis, Hamlin’s 10.4 average finish dating to 2010 is third best among active drivers.

 

JOEY LOGANO

He’s been a bit off in the early summer stretch of the season, but Indianapolis has always been a place where Logano has fared well. He has finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven races and followed Harvick across the finish line in second last year.

 

KYLE BUSCH

His luck has to change sometime, and Indianapolis has been great for Busch during his career. He won back-to-back Brickyards in 2015-16 and finished second in two of the three previous races. Busch has been involved in incidents that added up to finishing 34th in 2017 and 37th last year, but if he can avoid mayhem, the defending Cup Series champion should be an impact player Sunday.

 

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