This weekend will mark the first doubleheader for the NASCAR Cup Series and NTT IndyCar Series as they both compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, making the Brickyard 400 weekend schedule a busy one (Sunday, 4 pm ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app).
They’ll be joined by the Xfinity Series, which will hold its first race on the IMS road course Saturday (3 pm ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app) after the IndyCar race. The series will get two practice sessions before Saturday’s race, the first practice sessions for any NASCAR series since the sport returned in May.
The weekend culminates Sunday with the Cup Series’ Brickyard 400.
The memories range from sitting on the couch to a father/son trip and from hearing a grown man say “here kitty, kitty, kitty” to seeing that same man climb a fence.
Regardless the recollection, the memories all point to one location.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As the track prepares to host a historic doubleheader on its road course with the NTT IndyCar Series (noon ET Saturday on NBC) and the Xfinity Series (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC) and then host the Cup Series on the oval (4 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC), Cup drivers shared some of the special memories they have of the famed speedway.
One of the memories that stands out to Jimmie Johnson, a four-time Indy winner making his final Cup appearance at the track, is watching the 1982 Indianapolis 500. That race that saw A.J. Foyt exit early because of a mechanical issue and then take a hammer at his car to fix the issue. But it was more than that moment that remains with Johnson.
“I was on the couch with my father and grandfather,” Johnson told NBC Sports of that day. “Their opinion of A.J. and how he handled the situation and took the bull by the horns. (It was) like a guy/man moment with my father and grandfather watching (Foyt) work on his car like he did. I have a lot of warmth inside of me when I think of that moment.”
For 2013 Brickyard 400 winner Ryan Newman, who grew up about 150 miles north of the speedway, his first memory of the track was when he was in grade school and his father took him to the Indianapolis 500. It was rare to have a free weekend even then because Newman often was racing quarter midgets. Only thing is, Newman didn’t see the race. The race was rained out. The experiences there would get better, especially in 2013 when he won from the pole. “That was an amazing weekend,” he said.
Joey Logano, who seeks his first Brickyard 400 win after finishing second there last season, thinks back to the 2007 race. As Tony Stewart chased Kevin Harvick for the lead, Stewart keyed his radio and said “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” It was a line Stewart used from time to time when he had a strong car and was closing on the leader. Most times Stewart celebrated a win after uttering that line on the radio during a race.
Stewart is at the center of the memories for William Byron, who won the 2017 Xfinity race at the Indy. Byron recalls the first time Stewart won the Brickyard 400 in 2005. Stewart celebrated by climbing the fence. “I thought he was going to fall,” Byron said. “The fans were going crazy. … It was such an awesome moment.”
For Kevin Harvick, who won the Brickyard 400 in 2003 and last year, many early memories center around Rick Mears, who also is from Bakersfield, California. Mears is one of three men to win the Indianapolis 500 four times.
“As a kid it was always a dream to go to Indianapolis and race IndyCars,” Harvick told NBC Sports. “Going to Indianapolis and racing stock cars is still a huge thrill for me. To go there and race on the racetrack that was your childhood hero’s place to be successful and really make a name for himself, to go there and and do that for yourself is pretty special.
“Sometimes you just have to kind of pinch yourself and say, ‘Man am I really living all that out?’ Being able to win at Indy a couple of times now and to win last year, for the first time with the whole family there and to have that iconic picture of the trophy and my family … is something that you can’t replace.”
For others, the memories that stand out are when they got on track at Indy.
“You’ve got to pinch yourself every now and then the first couple of laps around Indy because you’re like this is pretty damn cool,” Corey LaJoie said.
Kurt Busch, who will make his 700th career Cup start Sunday at Indianapolis, competed in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and then the Coca-Cola 600 later that day.
His Indy experience was special but he admits that his laps around the speedway in an IndyCar during qualifying remain vivid.
“Going 230 miles an hour for four laps,” Busch told NBC Sports, “why I decided I was going to jump into an IndyCar I’ll never really quite understand other than I wanted to challenge myself and I wanted to go fast.”
Brickyard 400 entry lists: Cup and Xfinity Series for the weekend
This weekend will be a historic one for NASCAR at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Cup Series will hold the Brickyard 400 on the July 4 weekend for the first time as part of a doubleheader with IndyCar. Be sure you know who’s running after reading the Brickyard 400 entry lists.
On Saturday, the Xfinity Series will hold its first race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which follows the IndyCar race.
All three races will be broadcast on NBC.
Here are the Brickyard 400 entry lists for the NASCAR races.
Ross Chastain is entered in his third start in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet this season. His previous starts, in the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, were in a car prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing.
J.J. Yeley is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 27 Ford.
Josh Bilicki is entered in Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 Chevrolet.
Following support from drivers, NASCAR will allow competitors to choose which lane they want to restart in during the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The choose rule designates a spot on the track where a driver must select if they wish to restart on the inside lane or outside lane. The choose rule also will be in place for the NASCAR Open.
NASCAR also announced the format for the NASCAR Open and All-Star Race.
In the NASCAR Open, which is for drivers who have not qualified for the All-Star Race:
Stage 1 will be 35 laps
Stage 2 will be 35 laps
The final stage will be 15 laps
The winner of each stage advances to the All-Star Race. After the NASCAR Open, the Fan Vote winner will be announced. That will go to the driver not yet qualified for the All-Star Race after competing in the NASCAR Open.
In the All-Star Race, the format will be:
Stage 1 will be 55 laps
Stage 2 will be 35 laps
Stage 3 will be 35 laps
The final stage will be 15 laps
Both green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage. There will be an unlimited number of attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green flag conditions.
The biggest change is the choose rule. At Bristol, the outside line is dominant on restarts. The leader chooses to restart on the outside line and the driver starting in the second row — in fourth place — often is second shortly after the restart because of the lane’s advantage. With the rule change, others would have the chance to start on the outside lane if they wanted.
“I tell you, if I see a bunch of 12-year-olds do it in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’m pretty sure all of us could figure it out.”
Said Austin Dillon: “As a sport we’re always changing. We’ve done a really good job with the mile-and-a-half program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has.”
Some drivers have called for this type of rule to prevent the brake checking that takes place at the exit of pit road so a driver can be in an even-number position in the running order and restart on the outside lane.
“It takes out pit crew’s fast stops,” Dillon said. “Your pit crew could’ve gained a couple of spots there, but instead you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s gotta stop. I think it’s gonna knock someone’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long, so that will end a guy’s race. I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do.”