It was a historic racing weekend for Indianapolis Motor Speedway as for the first time it played host to both the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR. Racing got started with a doubleheader on Saturday with both the Indy and NASCAR Xfinity Series competing on the track’s road course.
Scott Dixon took the checkered flag in the IndyCar Series race and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe made his way to victory lane in the Xfinity Series event.
On Sunday, Kevin Harvick gave SHR its second win of the weekend at the Brickyard as he inherited the lead with less than ten laps left when race leader Denny Hamlin had a right front tire go down sending his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the outside wall.
The race had come down to a two man duel between Hamlin and Harvick as the two hottest drivers in the series were clearly the class of the field on what turned out to be a very unusual race day at the historic track. After inheriting the lead, Harvick with help from his SHR teammate Cole Custer on the final restart in overtime was able to pull away from second place driver Matt Kenseth to go on to win his fourth race of the season and his third Brickyard 400. The win was also the 53rd of what will one day be a Hall of Fame career.
The start of the race as has been the norm in recent weeks was delayed by weather in the area and once the green flag waved to start the race it wasn’t long until the race was red flagged for an incident on pit road. During a scheduled competition caution on lap 14 pit road was blocked just after the entrance when several cars got into each other which created a very dangerous situation as pit crew members were already around the right side of cars that were in their pit stalls.
Ryan Blaney’s rear tire changer, Zach Price was caught between his car and one of the spinning cars that resulted in him being transported to a local hospital to be checked out. He was later released to fly back to Charlotte where he will be further evaluated.
The pileup on what is the series’ narrowest pit road collected five drivers including Martin Truex Jr. and Justin Allgaier.
It was an especially tough end of the day for Allgaier as he was filling in for Jimmie Johnson who was forced to sit out after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus earlier in the week.
Truex experienced engine problems soon after the drop of the green flag and was limping around the track waiting for the competition caution to come to get his Toyota checked out.
His problem tuned out to be an issue with a spark plug that could have been easily fixed but his Toyota had sustained too much damage in the pileup to continue. Once the racing resumed, the racing was all about quick pit stops and track position that gave a driver the opportunity to take the lead on a restart.
Passing as it has always been at Indy was difficult so the restarts became all the more important and for the most part provided the bulk of the excitement on the day.
The absence of fans at the giant speedway made for an eerie setting as the sun fell behind the grandstands in the closing laps and was further amplified after the race when Harvick once again crawled out of his car after winning to a deafening absence of cheers.
His crew came out and did the celebratory climbing of the fence to celebrate the win in front of all of those empty seats, leaving them along with all of us watching with somewhat of an empty feeling.
The show must go on as they say but it is still missing the excitement that only the fans can bring.