Weekend Recap: Two Unlikely Victors Emerge and One Dominant Season Continues
By Matteo Marcheschi
Kahne Breaks Nearly Three-Year Winless Streak
Kasey Kahne had the restart of his life in the second attempt at overtime late Sunday afternoon to win the Brickyard 400 after getting to the front of the field using pit strategy. He battled Brad Keselowski throughout the final fifteen laps and was able to overtake him on that final restart with a massive run into turn one. Kahne didn’t need to defend and wasn’t given the chance to drive away as a wreck between Denny Hamlin, Ty Dillon, and Paul Menard ensued on the backstretch. As darkness closed in, NASCAR held the yellow flag until after Kahne crossed the overtime line, ending the race. The win is Kahne’s 18th career Cup series victory, and his first since 2014. The win comes at a critical time for Kahne’s career. While his contract with Hendrick Motorsports ends after 2018, there has been widespread speculation that Hendrick may take the option to let go of Kahne after this season. While this win helps Kahne’s case, whether it will attract sponsorship enough to convince Hendrick to keep him is uncertain.
DiBenedetto, Buescher, Whitt, others Have Top-15 Runs
The finishing order was pretty mixed up when the checkered flag fell in the near-darkness late Sunday afternoon. From eighth to 14th featured a host of underdogs, including Matt Dibenedetto (eighth), Chris Buescher (ninth), AJ Allmendinger (10th), Danica Patrick (11th), Cole Whitt (12th), and Timmy Hill (14th). Assisted by a number of multi-car incidents, these drivers were able to take home strong finishes Sunday, and each hopes to build on their respective success. JTG Daughtery’s race was especially successful: They put both of their cars (Allmendinger and Buescher) in the top-10, the second time this year, and the first time on a non-restrictor plate track.
Nearly Half the Field Wiped Out In Several Wrecks
Plenty of contenders found the other side of the coin at the Brickyard, though. 19 drivers failed to finish the race, and 17 of them had their race cut short due to accidents. Seven different multi-car incidents brought out cautions throughout the event, two of which occurred during overtime. The most impactful wreck came on lap 111, when Martin Truex Jr. got loose under Kyle Busch while battling for the lead. Both cars ended up junked after hard impacts with the outside wall, and Truex’s car was engulfed in flames. Both drivers were okay after the incident.
Byron Continues Stellar Season with Indy Win
William Byron fended off Paul Menard to take victory in the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The win is Byron’s third of 2017, all of which have taken place in the last five races. Byron is second in regular season points, and has been top-three ever since Atlanta, the second race of the season. With an average finish inside of the top 10, Byron has separated himself as a realistic championship contender.
Allgaier has issues in the Pits
To say Justin Allgaier had a bad day on pit road would be an understatement. On his first pit stop, he made a mistake on entry and collided with his jackman, Kyle Tudor, sending Tudor and his jack flying. Tudor would be okay, and would pit the car later in the race. Allgaier’s issues weren’t done, though. He would pit just prior to the end of stage two in a strategy call. On entry, Allgaier slid through his pit stall. His crew started work on the right side, but dropped the jack partway through so Allgaier could back the car up into the stall. Before the crew was able to complete work on the right side, though, Allgaier left the stall with no lug nuts on the right front tire. He brought the No. 7 car to a stop on the apron, all but ending his day. He would return to finish the race, but finished 35th, 14 laps down.
Cup and Xfinity Regulars Alike Struggle With New Package
When each driver climbed aboard his car for first practice on Friday afternoon, they had zero experience with the new package, which included the addition of downforce, as well as restrictor plates, like those used at Daytona and Talladega. This leveled the playing field, giving the less-experienced XFINITY drivers a chance against the Cup regulars. Kyle Busch was the only Cup regular of the five competing to lead laps on Saturday afternoon and, while he led the most laps, 44 of the day’s 100 laps, he did not win a stage and placed 12th on the day. While Paul Menard and Joey Logano finished second and third respectively, Xfinity drivers dominated, a huge departure from the last few races.
Crafton takes unlikely victory on dirt
Matt Crafton won his first race of 2017 in an unlikely place: On the dirt surface of Eldora. While Crafton has competed in all five Eldora events, he had finished between eighth and 10th each time before this season. Crafton, though, would change his luck for the better, winning the event after passing dirt veteran Stewart Friesen with fewer than 20 laps remaining. Crafton is the fifth different driver to lock himself into the eight-truck playoffs with a victory this season.
Bell runs into issues
Christopher Bell had a very fast truck, but spun out early in the race, collecting Kaz Grala. Bell, though, continued despite heavy right-side damage. He worked his way all the way up to the lead, but a flat tire set him back. Bell would finish ninth, battered truck and all.
Nine-truck wreck takes out points leader Sauter
A sizable wreck on lap 19 took out several trucks, including points leader Johnny Sauter. The wreck tipped off after Ben Rhodes and Sheldon Creed got together. Sauter was the first to approach the wreck and spun into Creed as more trucks piled into the mess. Sauter lost 35 points to second-place Christopher Bell as a result of the wreck. The two drivers are now separated by only seven points entering this weekend’s race at Pocono.