NASCAR returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course

(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

For the second consecutive season, the NASCAR Cup Series will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course for the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday, July 31 at 2:30 p.m. ET (NBC, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as part of an action-packed tripleheader weekend with the NTT IndyCar Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series (on Saturday, July 30).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) has existed since 1909, and is considered the original “Speedway”, the first racing facility to incorporate the word into its name. With a permanent seating capacity for more than 250,000-plus people and infield seating that raises capacity to an approximate 400,000, it is the largest and highest-capacity sporting facility in history. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course was completed in 2000 and it incorporates part of the famous four-turn oval. The original length upon completion of the road course measured 2.605-miles. In 2008, and again in 2014, the road course layout was modified to improve competition. This weekend’s event will compete on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile paved version of the road course.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (oval) was August 6, 1994. Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet) won the inaugural event at the 2.5-mile speedway. The NASCAR Cup Series made its historical debut on the 14-Turn, 2.439-mile asphalt paved road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last season with 40 competitors battling it out for 200 miles (82 laps). It was Kaulig Racing’s road course ace, A.J. Allmendinger, who knabbed the checkered flag in the event, by passing Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and leading just the final two laps en route to the victory. 

The inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course was filled with competitive excitement, producing 13 lead changes among 11 different leaders. But it was Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson (28 laps led) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (27 laps led) who commanded the lion’s share of the laps led in the event.

This weekend’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard is scheduled for 82 total laps and will be broken up into three stages. The first stage will be 15 laps, the second will be 20 laps and the final stage will be 47 laps. All the on-track NASCAR Cup Series activity will begin with practice on Saturday from 9:35 a.m. – 10:35 a.m. ET, directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 10:35 a.m. ET. Both events will be televised on the USA Network at 9:30 a.m. ET. 

Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger looks to ‘Kiss the Bricks’ once again

Last season, A.J. Allmendinger delivered the Kaulig Racing organization its first NASCAR Cup Series victory in a stunning run to the finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. 

“That was an insane race!” exclaimed Allmendinger when he climbed from the No. 16 Chevrolet at Indianapolis last season. “I can’t — the curbing, we were 17th with nine, eight to go, and I was like, all right, maybe we get a top 10, and luckily, we’ve got a team owner that says trophy hunting. He doesn’t care if the car is wrecked, bring it back on the wrecker or you go win the race.”

The impressive run yielded A.J. Allmendinger his second career NASCAR Cup Series victory (Watkins Glen 2014, Indianapolis RC 2021). Now the 40-year-old veteran shuffles back into the hallowed grounds that is Indianapolis Motor Speedway looking for a second chance to ‘Kiss the Bricks’ this weekend.

Allmendinger, currently a fulltime NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor, leads the Xfinity Series driver standings heading into this weekend at Indianapolis, and will be pulling double duty competing on both Saturday and Sunday. 

This season, Allmendinger has run a part-time schedule in the NASCAR Cup Series, sharing the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet with Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson. In total, the California native, Allmendinger, has made 10 Cup Series starts this season posting two top-10 finishes.

Playoff Bubble: Five to go in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season

Another repeat winner last weekend at Pocono Raceway is another chance passed for a new driver to earn their way into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs this season by victory. With just five races remaining in the regular season and 14 drivers already visiting Victory Lane this year, only two spots are still up for grabs on points and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney (+105 points above the cutoff) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. (+83 points above the cutoff) have a firm grasp on those positions. Though mathematically possible to make run on points to catch Blaney and Truex in these last five races, a win would be much easier to seal the deal.

Of the drivers looking for their first win of the season, three finished inside the top 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course last year; including Ryan Blaney’s runner-up finish, Petty GMS Motorsports’ Erik Jones’ seventh-place finish and Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley’s eighth-place finish.

On the Playoff bubble hot seat for the second consecutive week, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. can certainly feel the pressure to secure his spot in the Playoffs in the last and final transfer spot on points with five races still remaining in the regular season. Truex is currently 83 points up on Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick in 17th in the Playoff outlook driver standings. But with four previous Cup Series road course wins in his career, the New Jersey native would prefer to get his fifth road course victory this weekend and earn his spot in the Playoffs. Truex finished 15th at the Indianapolis Road Course last season.   

RankDriverPointsWinsStagesPlayoff PtsPts From CutoffIndy RC Finish
15Ryan Blaney6760551052nd
16Martin Truex Jr.6540778315th
17Kevin Harvick571000-8314th
18Aric Almirola514000-14025th
19Erik Jones472000-1827th
20Austin Dillon448000-20631st
21Michael McDowell447000-20730th
22Bubba Wallace418011-23613th
23Justin Haley407000-2478th
24Chris Buescher388000-26612th
25Ricky Stenhouse Jr.367000-28711th
26Cole Custer353000-30125th
27Harrison Burton #333000-321N/A
28Brad Keselowski31900-10-33524th
29Todd Gilliland #308000-346N/A
30Ty Dillon294000-360N/A

Elliott’s fourth win of the season opens up his standings lead

With Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain (second in the series standings) being caught in an incident and finishing 32nd, plus Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch getting the double post-race DQ awarding Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott the win at Pocono Raceway, the Georgia native’s NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead has ballooned to 105 points over second and now the 2022 regular season title is in sight. 

Elliott is currently riding the best five-race window of success in his NASCAR Cup Series career, posting an average finish of 1.4 and finishing first or second in the each of the last five Cup Series events. 

Just five races remain in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season and Chase Elliott looks poised to become the fifth different driver to win the Regular Season Championship; joining Kyle Larson (2021), Kevin Harvick (2020), Kyle Busch (2018, 2019) and Martin Truex Jr. (2017). Securing the NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Championship not only brings prestige, but also 15 bonus Playoff points which would elevate Elliott’s Playoff points total from the current series leading 25, to a massive mountain-like 40 Playoff points.

Looking to this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Elliott will attempt to build on his strong performance from last season, where he started third and led 14 laps en route to a fourth-place finish.  

Chase Elliott is currently third on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time road course wins list with seven road course victories, behind NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (nine road course wins) and Tony Stewart (eight road course wins).   

Active road course aces this weekend to watch

Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick outdueled Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott at Road America, the last road course the NASCAR Cup Series visited on July 3, to get his first career series win and become the 14th active road course winner entered this weekend to compete in Sunday’s (July 31) Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at 2:30 p.m. ET (NBC, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the 2.349-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. 

One to watch in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard, was last weekend’s Pocono Raceway winner and Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott as he looks to retake his crown as the active road course king this weekend. Elliott leads the 14 active Cup Series road course winners with seven victories on tracks that turn left and right. Expect Elliott to be upfront again this weekend as in last season’s Indianapolis Road Course race, he started third and led 14 laps before finishing fourth. Plus, he has the second-best average finish on the three road courses the NASCAR Cup Series has already visited this season with a 4.6; behind only Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain with a 4.0. 

Another former road course winner having a great season this year, despite some bad luck last weekend at Pocono, is Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney; currently third in the series’ driver standings, but without a win is 15th on the Playoff outlook heading into this weekend at Indianapolis. Blaney finished runner-up to A.J. Allmendinger in last season’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Cup race and his lone road course win in the NASCAR Cup Series came at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL – another road course that incorporates the oval of the track in its layout like Indianapolis. And on top of all that, Blaney has the fourth-best average finish on the three road courses the Cup Series has visited already this season with a 7.6. 

Active Road Course Winners in the NASCAR Cup Series
Active Road Course WinnersTotal WinsSonomaWGICharlotteDaytonaIndyCOTARoad America
Chase Elliott70221011
Kyle Busch42200000
Martin Truex Jr43100000
Kyle Larson31110000
Kevin Harvick21100000
AJ Allmendinger20100100
Joey Logano10100000
Kurt Busch11000000
Ryan Blaney10010000
Christopher Bell10001000
Denny Hamlin10100000
Ross Chastain10000010
Daniel Suárez11000000
Tyler Reddick10000001

Or will the fans get to see another new winner this weekend? With a series record five new winners this season, it could happen. The first three road course races this year have already produced three first-time NASCAR Cup Series winners – Circuit of the Americas, Ross Chastain; Sonoma Raceway, Daniel Suárez; and Road America, Tyler Reddick.

Ten of the 38 drivers entered this weekend are looking for their for first career NASCAR Cup Series victory – (in alphabetical order) Josh Bilicki, Harrison Burton, Ty Dillon, Todd Gilliland, Joey Hand, Loris Hezemans, Daniil Kvyat, Corey LaJoie, BJ McLeod and Cody Ware.

In addition, seven drivers that visited Victory Lane in the NASCAR Cup Series last season are still looking for their first win of 2022 – A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Martin Truex Jr., Michael McDowell and Ryan Blaney. 

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