This weekend was the end of some traditions in the stock car organization, usually, Nascar has their second race at Daytona during the 4th of July but the schedule of course got mixed up due to Covid-19, instead the first Independence Day weekend was celebrated at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Another historic event at the Brickyard 400, a doubleheader weekend with NASCAR and IndyCar as they competed at the same track for the first time. Kevin Harvick pulled ahead of Matt Kenseth in overtime to win his fourth race of the year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway tying Denny Hamlin for most wins by a driver this season. Hamlin looked primed to win as he had a second lead over Harvick with 7 laps to go, that was until his tire popped, he came hard into the wall and his right side was completely crushed and if that wasn’t bad enough, Harvick has now passed him for the chase lead. Jimmie Johnson has broken a streak of 663 straight races, this was taken away from him and his fans as he is the first driver in NASCAR diagnosed with Covid-19. Justin Allgaier, Xfinity Series all-pro driver has taken over for the iconic 48 until Johnson fully recovers.
The race was projected to start at 4:00 P.M. (ET), it wouldn’t be a NASCAR race in 2020 without a delay as the event was pushed back an hour due to lighting eight miles from the track, once the race got underway, poll leader, Joey Logano led the first 13 laps before the competition caution. A six car pileup on lap 16 at the entrance of pit road, Brennan Poole avoided the crash but couldn’t slow down in time as No. 15 hit the left leg of Ryan Blaney’s pit crew member, Zach Price. He gave a thumbs up to the drivers and other crew members as he was carried off on a stretcher into an ambulance. Great news, he was treated for a fracture in the knee area and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night. With 10 laps to go in the stage, Ryan Newman hit the wall as he lost control of his car, he would not return as his left side was mangled. William Byron held on for the final 4 laps to win the stage with Erik Jones and Austin Dillon rounding out the top three.
Chase Elliott led the beginning of the stage until Jones lost control of his car and smashed the right side of No. 20, he came down the track as the smoke turned into fire. Moments later, Byron had a flat tire to the front left side, he was in the top five as this caution occurred. Would this be it for wrecks this stage? Nope! After Harvick made a splendid pass on the inside past Hamlin and Dillon, Blaney spun out as he headed off the back straight away, Harvick continued to dominate and won the second stage with Elliott and Hamlin clocking in at 2nd and 3rd.
The final stage was nothing but the top two drivers, Hamlin and Harvick duking it out for the finish line. Right after they both pitted, caution was out as Alex Bowman came crashing into the SAFER barrier with 30 laps to go forcing the leader, ”ageless wonder” Kenseth along with many others to pit. Hamlin would then pull away from Harvick and Kenseth looking like he had the race all but won, the only thing that could slow him down was a yellow flag, well wouldn’t you know it, with 7 laps remaining, Hamlin had a blown tire coming off of turn two smacking the wall as the back of his car caught on fire. This brought the race straight to OT.
The race went straight into extra laps, Aric Almirola has finished 5th or better in four of his last five races, many wondered if he’d get his revenge on Harvick who passed him last Saturday for the win at Pocono. Unfortunately, the same story applied to Almirola and the other drivers, Harvick “The Closer” shot past Kenseth and in a blink of an eye, it was over before it started as no driver came close to Harvick. To make things a little more exciting, a crash on the last lap as Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto crashed into the infield but no caution as Harvick had already crossed the finish line.
Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing go to victory lane for the fourth time this season, all of Harvick’s wins have come after the 2 month stoppage and it looks like he will not be slowing down anytime soon. “The Closer” also won at this very track last year where he held ground in front of Logano. Kenseth, Almirola, Brad Keselowski and rookie, Cole Custer rounding out the top five, an unexpected list of finishers, Kyle Busch despite finishing 6th, had a very good race and stayed in the top 10 throughout, but will he ever get out of this funk? Michael McDowell, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace all cracked the top 9 surprising many as well. Denny Hamlin gets a “did not finish” with a lousy 28th place, truly unfortunate for the “then” chase leader.
Next Sunday, check out Kentucky Speedway where Kurt Busch edged out his brother, Kyle in an overtime thriller last year.