Rating the Race: Indianapolis – Allstate 400
With only two accidents and one blown engine, the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis Motorspeedway still managed to see 11 caution periods during the 160-lap event because of tire issues …. that’s the story of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race, and unfortunately that story overshadows the one of Jimmie Johnson winning the pole award and going on to pick up his second career victory at the Brickyard.
NASCAR knew that they were likely to experience tire issues, but they weren’t sure just how bad it would be. They had a competition caution scheduled within the first 15 laps of the race, but they didn’t need to use it thanks to Michael Waltrip spinning into the Turn 2 wall on lap 4, and then Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick wrecking on lap 14.
Dale Earnhardt Jr, who had already made a pit stop under green, inherited the lead on lap 17 when he stayed out as the rest of the leaders came into pit. He was able to hold onto the lead until his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, passed him on lap 25, and that’s when the troubles started for Junior. The next lap Earnhardt’s car was bobbling around the track as he lost a ton of positions before finally pitting on lap 27 with a right rear tire going down, putting him a lap down.
On the following lap, Mark Martin came down pit road when he thought he might have a tire going down, and then on lap 29, Juan Pablo Montoya’s right-rear blew, spreading debris all over the track. NASCAR then brought their first competition caution out on lap 30, and it was the points leader, Kyle Busch, leading the charge off of pit road to assume the race lead.
Jeff Gordon passed Busch for the lead on lap 36, but Johnson passed his teammate on the next trip around the track to take the lead for the second time of the day. About this same time, NASCAR reported that the next scheduled competition caution would take place on lap 47, but a few of the cars just couldn’t stretch it that far. Mark Martin pitted on lap 46 when he felt the tire cords vibrating in the car, Sam Hornish Jr. went a lap down when he was forced to pit with a tire issue, and Carl Edwards lost several positions on the track when he had to slow his car down because he, too, thought he was having a problem.
The big blow, though, was on lap 47. Just prior to NASCAR waiving their scheduled competition caution, Matt Kenseth blew a right rear tire that sent him spinning and literally shredded the rear end of his car. Kenseth had started up inside the top-ten and was viewed by many as one of the favorites to win the race, but the unfortunate circumstances put a shoddy end to his day.
Kyle Busch once again led the field off of pit road, this time followed by AJ Allmendinger in second. Both cars took only two tires, while Jimmie Johnson continued to take four tires on each stop. The four tires proved to be key, as Johnson once again worked his way up to the front on lap 62 and stayed there until the next competition caution, which came on lap 65. Dale Earnhardt Jr. received the Lucky Dog award under this caution, finally putting him back on the lead lap.
Allmendinger, who stayed in second place through the entire previous run on just two tires, once again went with just two right-sides and won the race off of pit road to take the lead. He continued his strong run and held onto the lead for a few laps, but was eventually passed by Johnson on lap 72. Two laps later Brian Vickers, who was running in the top-ten at the time, was forced to make his way down pit road with engine troubles as he was unable to turn the full RPMs.
Johnson still had the lead when the next competition caution waived on lap 82, but Martin Truex Jr. short-pitted just prior to the caution flag and inherited the lead by staying out while the leaders pitted. The lead was short-lived, however, as Carl Edwards made quick work of Truex and passed him for the lead on lap 87, and three laps later it was Johnson back to the front.
Caution number 7 was another competion caution on lap 97, and this time it was Elliott Sadler taking the lead for the first time despite hanging around near the top-five for the entire day, but lost the lead during the restart on lap 105 when Jeff Burton made his move to the front after starting all the way back in 32nd. Just after Burton took the lead, though, Brian Vickers – who had recently returned to the track – finally blew his engine, bringing the field under caution for the 8th time.
The leaders stayed out on the track having run only one lap on their set of tires, and they didn’t finally get restarted again until lap 113. Burton was still in the lead at the time, but three laps later it was Johnson again up to the front. He stayed there until the next competition caution on lap 121. This time it was Denny Hamlin taking two tires to get off of pit road first, and for the first time of the day, Johnson struggled to get past him despite having four fresh tires underneath him.
Hamlin held onto the lead through the ensuing caution on lap 133, and then NASCAR presented their final competition caution on lap 149, setting up a shootout to the finish. With the majority of the teams opting for just two tires on pit road, Hamlin’s crew had a slow stop and sent him out in third with Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards coming out ahead of him.
The final restart came on lap 154, and Johnson was able to hold off Carl Edwards for the final 7 laps of the race to get his second Brickyard victory with Edwards finishing 2nd and Hamlin in 3rd. Elliott Sadler earned his best finish of the season in 4th, and Jamie McMurray finished off a strong run in 5th. Jeff Gordon slipped a little in the latter portions of the race, but still went onto finish in 6th. 7th place went to Kasey Kahne, who rebounded nicely after his team spotted a cracked header on his car in the first segments of the race. Greg Biffle scored his best Indy finish by crossing the line in 8th. In 9th was Jeff Burton, and AJ Allmendinger finally scored his first ever top-ten finish by finishing 10th.
After running a lap down earlier in the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. rebounded to a 12th place finish ….. Indiana-native, Ryan Newman, was scored in 13th ….. Points leader, Kyle Busch, wound up with his worst Indianapolis finish in 15th ….. Patrick Carpentier was scored as the highest rookie in the race. He finished 18th ….. In what will be his final Indianapolis appearance with Joe Gibbs Racing, Tony Stewart – a two time winner of this event and one of the favorites heading into the weekend - finished with an extremely disappointing 23rd place run.
The top three spots in the standings remained unchanged, and both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton were able to gain very minimal ground on Kyle Busch for 1st place. Johnson’s win, however, moved him up a position past Carl Edwards into 4th, as Edwards now drops to 5th. Denny Hamlin gave himself a little bit more of a cushion as he moves up four spots into 8th, and Kasey Kahne jumped up two positions to 9th. Clint Bowyer’s 19th place run was enough to move him from 13th to 12th in the standings and into a Chase position, while his Richard Childress Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick, dropped down 4 spots to 13th. Only 100 points separates 7th place Greg Biffle from Kevin Harvick, and Harvick is only 2 points out of 12th.
the Race: 40%
the Drama: 75%
Overall Grade: 56.4%
Complete Results (from nascar.com):
|3||23||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||FedEx Office||170/5||160||Running|
|6||8||26||Jamie McMurray||Ford||Crown Royal||150/0||160||Running|
|7||4||9||Kasey Kahne||Dodge||Budweiser / LifeLock||146/0||160||Running|
|8||12||16||Greg Biffle||Ford||DISH Network / DishDVRs||142/0||160||Running|
|9||32||31||Jeff Burton||Chevrolet||Prilosec OTC||143/5||160||Running|
|10||26||84||A.J. Allmendinger||Toyota||Red Bull||139/5||160||Running|
|11||2||8||Mark Martin||Chevrolet||U.S. Army||130/0||160||Running|
|12||11||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||National Guard / AMP Energy||132/5||160||Running|
|14||16||6||David Ragan||Ford||AAA Insurance||121/0||160||Running|
|16||27||43||Bobby Labonte||Dodge||Cheerios / Totino’s Pizza Rolls||115/0||160||Running|
|18||15||10||Patrick Carpentier *||Dodge||Sears Auto Center / Valvoline||109/0||160||Running|
|19||40||07||Clint Bowyer||Chevrolet||Jack Daniel’s||106/0||160||Running|
|21||38||77||Sam Hornish Jr. *||Dodge||Mobil 1||100/0||160||Running|
|22||24||147||Marcos Ambrose||Ford||Little Debbie||97/0||160||Running|
|23||14||20||Tony Stewart||Toyota||The Home Depot||94/0||160||Running|
|24||25||1||Martin Truex Jr.||Chevrolet||Bass Pro Shops / Cub Cadet||96/5||160||Running|
|25||35||66||Scott Riggs||Chevrolet||State Water Heaters||93/5||160||Running|
|26||31||5||Casey Mears||Chevrolet||CARQUEST / Kellogg’s||85/0||160||Running|
|27||43||45||Terry Labonte||Dodge||Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil||82/0||160||Running|
|28||39||96||J.J. Yeley||Toyota||DLP HDTV||79/0||160||Running|
|29||36||78||Joe Nemechek||Chevrolet||Furniture Row
|31||42||01||Regan Smith *||Chevrolet||Principal Financial Group||75/5||160||Running|
|32||21||70||Jason Leffler||Chevrolet||Hunt Brothers Pizza||67/0||160||Running|
|33||29||7||Robby Gordon||Dodge||Johns Manville / Menards||64/0||160||Running|
|34||30||00||Michael McDowell *||Toyota||Champion Mortgage||66/5||160||Running|
|36||28||28||Travis Kvapil||Ford||Hitachi Power Tools||60/5||160||Running|
|37||18||29||Kevin Harvick||Chevrolet||Shell / Pennzoil||52/0||148||Running|
|39||13||42||Juan Montoya||Dodge||Big Red Slim Pack||46/0||124||Engine|
|40||7||2||Kurt Busch||Dodge||Miller Lite||43/0||119||Running|
|41||37||15||Paul Menard||Chevrolet||Johns Manville / Menards||40/0||118||Running|
|42||17||83||Brian Vickers||Toyota||Red Bull||42/5||93||Engine|
|43||34||55||Michael Waltrip||Toyota||NAPA AUTO PARTS||34/0||91||Running|
Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):
|+/-||DRIVER||POINTS||BEHIND||STARTS||POLES||WINS||TOP 5||TOP 10|
|2||–||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2751||-253||20||1||1||7||12|
|17||–||Martin Truex Jr.||2146||-858||20||0||0||2||6|
|33||–||Sam Hornish Jr.*||1522||-1482||20||0||0||0||0|