NASCAR Cup storylines: Indy road course


A new chapter of NASCAR Cup Series racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway begins this weekend.

After 27 years of competition on Indy’s famous 2.5-mile oval, NASCAR’s premier division will run for the first time on the Brickyard’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.

Sunday’s race (1 p.m. ET, NBC) is the final act of NASCAR’s joint weekend with IndyCar at IMS. Both IndyCar and the NASCAR Xfinity Series will run Saturday on the Indy road course.

The race could provide another shakeup on the road to the Cup playoffs. Following Sunday, the series heads to Michigan (Aug. 22) before closing out the regular season on the oval at Daytona (Aug. 28).

It hits different

After years of subpar racing and poor attendance for the Brickyard 400, it was not entirely surprising for Indy’s Cup race to move to the road course.

But while the road course may provide a more lively show – which is what happened last year for the Xfinity Series – it still marks a massive change for what was a crown jewel event.

The inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, won by Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, was a milestone in NASCAR’s rise to becoming the most popular form of racing in America. From there, over a quarter-century of history was made.

That’s over. Maybe not forever, but certainly for now.

Kevin Harvick, winner of the last two Brickyard 400s on the oval, shared his thoughts on the matter this week. To him, Indy means the oval.

“I can’t imagine driving backward on the front stretch and driving the road course in the infield,” he said. “…When you look at the oval and you look at the history of the racetrack and everything that comes with that – some guys may not have grown up like that, so some people will have a much different opinion – but for me, the oval just holds a huge place in racing and it holds a huge place in the things that I look forward to every year.

“I remember the first time I pulled in there for a test in 2001 and you roll into the racetrack and you think, ‘Man, I just accomplished everything in my childhood dreams, rolling into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.’ Getting to go out on that racetrack and hearing the echoes of the cars through the grandstand is something that I’ll never forget, standing there on the front straightaway.

“I’m sure I’ll get over it as we start to get into practice and realize it’s just another race. But, for me, it’s going to be a difficult hurdle to overcome.”

Get to the points

While Kyle Larson officially took the regular season points lead after his win at Watkins Glen, he and Denny Hamlin are still tied on points at 917 (Larson’s five victories this season gives him the tie-breaker over the winless Hamlin).

The Indy road course will be new for both drivers, but Larson’s won two of the last three road course races. His Hendrick Motorsports team has won eight of the last nine road course races, including the last four.

Hamlin’s fifth-place finish last week at Watkins Glen was his fifth top 10 in his last seven road course races. But with how dominant the Hendrick organization has been in this discipline, Larson seems poised to take the lead outright if he avoids trouble.

Meanwhile, the bubble battle between Richard Childress Racing teammates Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon remains close entering Indy. Reddick holds the 16th and final playoff position by 15 points over Dillon.

On Tuesday, Dillon told reporters in a media teleconference that he was “pretty calm” about the situation. He also said that while having 13 different winners this season has had an “unfortunate” impact on his playoff outlook, he feels confident after learning the Indy road course on the simulator the last few weeks.

“I usually don’t pick up the road courses on the simulator very fast, but for some reason, Indy came to me pretty quick, which is good, I think, for what we’re going into,” he added.

“I think qualifying is the biggest thing on my mind right now for this coming weekend and getting a good qualifying position because I know how important, the way it is, it’s so hard to pass on all these road courses that get strung out, that starting position matters.”

Cup qualifying is scheduled for Sunday morning at 9:05 a.m. ET. The Cup race begins shortly after 1 p.m. ET that afternoon.

They’ve seen this before

Seven drivers entered for Sunday’s Cup race competed in last year’s inaugural Xfinity Series race on the Indy road course. With the circuit being an unknown for most of the field, this past experience could prove useful.

Current Cup rookies Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo are in that aforementioned group of seven.

Briscoe, an Indiana native, won last year’s Xfinity race after holding off Austin Cindric, A.J. Allmendinger and Noah Gragson in the final laps. Alfredo finished 20th.

Cindric and Allmendinger are also entered for Sunday. Cindric will make his seventh Cup start this season for Team Penske. Allmendinger will make his fourth Cup start this season for Kaulig Racing.

Finishing second in last year’s Xfinity race behind Briscoe was fellow Hoosier Justin Haley. He’s entered for Sunday in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77.

Completing the group are Ross Chastain and Josh Bilicki. In last year’s Xfinity race, Chastain and Bilicki finished sixth and 23rd respectively.

Regarding a surprise win, Cindric and Allmendinger obviously stand out for their road course acumen. A victory from either wouldn’t impact the Cup playoff picture, as both are Xfinity full-timers.

But Briscoe’s three top-10 finishes as a Cup freshman have all been on road courses. He’s finished sixth at both COTA and Road America, as well as ninth last week at Watkins Glen.

Chastain has also posted three finishes of seventh or better in his last four road course starts.

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.

Sunday Cup race at WWT Raceway: Start time, TV info, weather


Twelve races remain until the playoffs begin in early September. Ten drivers have won races. The pressure to secure a playoff spot builds as the Cup Series heads into the summer months.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Six-time Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee will give the command to start engines at 3:32 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting is at 2:40 p.m. … Driver intros are at 2:55 p.m. … Tim Bounds, pastor at The Crossing Church St. Louis, will give the invocation at 3:24 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by Bebe Winans and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at 3:25 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 240 laps (300 miles) on the 1.25-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 140.

STARTING LINEUP: Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. … Coverage begins at 2 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 90 degrees and a 15% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Joey Logano won the inaugural Cup race at this track. Kyle Busch was second. Kurt Busch placed third.


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Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway

Cup starting lineup at World Wide Technology Raceway


Kyle Busch will lead the Cup starting lineup to the green flag in Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

Busch will be joined on the front row by Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

The second row will have Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. The third row has Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano.

Corey LaJoie, driving the No. 9 car in place of the suspended Chase Elliott, qualified 30th after hitting the wall on his lap.

The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1.

Kyle Busch wins Cup pole at WWT Raceway


Kyle Busch collected his first Cup pole of the season and will lead the field to the green flag in Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Busch last won a Cup pole at Phoenix in November 2019. He earned his 33rd career Cup pole Saturday with a lap of 137.187 mph on the 1.25-mile speedway.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

“Being able to get a pole here with Richard Childress Racing, Team Chevy and everybody on this No. 8 team is good for us and just try to get some momentum rolling,” Busch said. “Our short track stuff hasn’t been the greatest this year so far, but this isn’t the short track aero package here this weekend, so that might pay dividends hopefully for us to just have a better day than what we anticipated. Just excited to have the guys pumped up and raring to go, and knowing that their hard work is paying off.”

Busch will be joined on the front row by Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney, who qualified at 137.153 mph. Blaney’s car failed inspection twice before qualifying. He will lose his pit selection for Sunday’s race. His car chief also was ejected. Brad Keselowski‘s car also failed inspection twice before qualifying. He loses pit selection and had the team’s car chief ejected. Keselowski qualified 19th with a lap of 135.743 mph.

Denny Hamlin (136.903 mph) starts third and is followed by Kevin Harvick (136.766) and Martin Truex Jr. (136.360). Harvick has two top-five starts this season and both have come in the last two events.

“I think we have a little bit of work to do on our car in race trim, but a lot of it is just getting into a rhythm I think – more than anything,” Harvick said. “Qualifying, we were just a little bit tight through Turns 1 and 2, and the car was good in 3 and 4. So, we have to have a better balance, and that’s what probably cost us a little bit of speed to get the pole. But, still a good day and a good starting spot.”

Corey LaJoie, subbing for the suspended Chase Elliott, will start 30th after hitting the wall on his qualifying lap. He qualified at 134.561 mph. Carson Hocevar, making in his Cup debut in LaJoie’s car, qualified 26th with a lap of 135.220 mph.

Green flag for Sunday’s race is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m. ET on FS1.