A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course …
A.J. Allmendinger – Just over seven years after what was his lone Cup Series win (Watkins Glen 2014), Allmendinger triumphed again in NASCAR’s premier division. The Xfinity Series full-timer, in his fourth Cup start of 2021, avoided all the late-race chaos Sunday to give Kaulig Racing its first-ever Cup victory. The team is going full-time in Cup next season with a two-car program: Justin Haley driving one car, Allmendinger and other drivers sharing the second.
Kyle Larson – A day after capturing one of sprint car racing’s crown jewel events, the Knoxville Nationals, Larson looked poised to win at Indy until a debris caution with nine laps to go ended up changing everything. Larson ultimately came home third, but it was more than enough to take the outright regular season points lead – and, potentially, the champion’s prize of 15 playoff points – from Denny Hamlin.
Matt DiBenedetto – Fifth-place finish on Sunday was his first top five run since May at Kansas Speedway (fourth). As DiBenedetto plays out his final season with the Wood Brothers, he’s found consistent results with new crew chief Jonathan Hassler. He’s finished no worse than 11th over the last five races.
Erik Jones – Seventh-place finish was his first top 10 since a ninth-place effort in March on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway. As Jones himself noted, he didn’t have a particularly great car on Sunday but stayed out of trouble when others couldn’t. Sometimes, that’s enough.
Justin Haley – He claimed his second career top-10 finish in Cup with an eighth-place result on Sunday for Spire Motorsports. The other is his rain-shortened Daytona win for Spire back in July 2019.
Austin Cindric – Followed up his Saturday win in the Xfinity Series with a ninth-place finish on Sunday, the best of his limited Cup run so far in 2021. Like Haley, Cindric is prepping for a full-time move to Cup next season with Team Penske.
Denny Hamlin – Went from a potential first win of the season to finishing 23rd after getting spun on the first lap of double overtime by Chase Briscoe, who was penalized earlier in the lap for cutting the course. It’s the latest in a series of recent near-misses for Hamlin at the Brickyard.
Chase Briscoe – Cup rookie claimed innocence in his clash with Hamlin, saying he wasn’t informed of his penalty by the time he turned Hamlin around. Whether you believe him or not, the Indiana native missed a golden opportunity to not only make the postseason with a win, but also claim another home victory after his Xfinity win there one year ago.
The curbs – Repeated efforts by track workers throughout the day to repair the inside “turtle” curb at Turn 6 went for naught when, with five laps to go, it broke up and led to a nine-car wreck. After the race extended into overtime, Michael McDowell launched over a different “sausage” curb at Turn 6 off the first restart to spark a seven-car crash. Despite the problems, IMS and NASCAR are set on keeping the Cup cars on the road course.