Drivers to watch in Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series will race for only the second time on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday.

Auto racing’s most famous facility has been hosting the Cup Series since 1994, but 2021 marked the first time Cup drivers had competed on the 2.4-mile road course at the track.

Fourteen drivers have qualified for the Cup playoffs. With five races left to the end of the regular season, drivers around the cutoff line will be scrambling for wins.

FRONTRUNNERS

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 1st
  • Last three races: Won at Pocono; 2nd at New Hampshire; won at Atlanta
  • Past at Indianapolis: 4th last year

The recent past makes Elliott the race favorite wherever he goes. He has finished no worse than second in the past five races. And he figures to be strong again on the Indy road course. He finished fourth there last year and has won seven of the past 17 Cup road course races.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: 32nd at Pocono; 8th at New Hampshire; 2nd at Atlanta
  • Past at Indianapolis: 29th last year

Chastain hasn’t won since April at Talladega Superspeedway and figures to be particularly hungry after crashing out of Sunday’s race at Pocono after another altercation with Denny Hamlin. Chastain won on the road course at Circuit of the Americas earlier this year, leading 31 laps.

Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 4th
  • Last three races: 5th at Pocono; 14th at New Hampshire; 13th at Atlanta
  • Past at Indianapolis: 3rd last year

Larson is on a 19-race winless streak, the longest of his career while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Indy should provide a good chance for his second win of the season. He was third on the IMS road course last year and has three wins in the series’ past eight road-course races.

 

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 21st
  • Last three races: 35th at Pocono; 6th at New Hampshire; 25th at Atlanta
  • Past at Indianapolis: 23rd last year

Will Sunday’s disqualification at Pocono put new fire under Hamlin for Indy? With Sunday’s win disappearing, he hasn’t had a top five since winning at Charlotte eight races ago. He almost won on the Indy road course last year before he was wrecked coming to the white flag.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 10th
  • Last three races: 27th at Pocono; fifth at New Hampshire; 12th at Atlanta
  • Past at Indianapolis: 14th last year

Harvick keeps knocking on the door to a first win of the season but has been repeatedly turned back. He was in the mix at the front again at Pocono but was collected in a late-race crash with Ross Chastain and finished 27th. Harvick has four top-10 runs in the past six races but is running out of time to notch a win.

Austin Cindric

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 31st at Pocono; 13th at New Hampshire; 3rd at Atlanta
  • Past at Indianapolis: 9th last year

Where has Cindric been since winning the season-opening Daytona 500? A road course specialist, he could be among the threats to win at Indy. He has four finishes of ninth or better in his last four road-course starts.