GFT Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
11 August 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
INDIANAPOLIS, IN — With just three races remaining in the regular season, tensions are high for many of the competitors not locked into the Playoffs as the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course for the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday, August 13 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Last season’s race on the Indianapolis Road Course was just as exciting as the first, with nine lead changes and Tyler Reddick, then driving for Richard Childress Racing, taking the victory by 1.065-second over Austin Cindric in Overtime.
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 directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. ET. Both events will be streamed on the NBC Sports App (Peacock).
Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
The Date: Sunday, August 13
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $9,158,803
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 199.998 miles (82 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 15), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 35), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 82)
Playoff Streaks In Jeopardy: Several drivers need to win to get into the postseason
Looking at the NASCAR Cup Series 2023 Playoff standings outlook, several big names are below the cut line and with just three races left in the regular season the pressure to earn a spot in the postseason is mounting.
Rolling into this weekend at Indianapolis, three former NASCAR Cup Series champions — Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott, another eight former Playoff drivers — Michael McDowell, Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe, plus another three former Cup Series winners — Bubba Wallace, A.J. Allmendinger, and Justin Haley make up the 20-driver field of eligible competitors still looking for a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series 2023 Playoffs.
The four drivers currently occupying the four open transfer spots on points in the Playoff outlook are Kevin Harvick (+180 points), Brad Keselowski (+168), Bubba Wallace (+58) and rookie Ty Gibbs (+3). Harvick has made 16 appearances in the Playoffs (tied with Denny Hamlin for series-most), including the last 13 postseasons consecutively — the longest active streak of consecutive appearances.
Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell dropped out of the 16th spot and into 17th place in the Playoff standings outlook following his 24th-place finish at Michigan, and now sits three points back from Joe Gibbs Racing’s rookie Ty Gibbs.
“We had a good run at Michigan and we need a good one at Indianapolis as well,” said Gibbs. “We just need to keep having good finishes and we can get in the Playoffs. We want to win, but we need good finishes if we can’t win.”
Behind McDowell is former road course winners, Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez in 18th only five points back from Gibbs in the final transfer spot on points, and Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger (-24 points), who won at the Indianapolis Road Course in 2021.
But the biggest name below the Playoff cut line and approaching a must win situation, is the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion and Hendrick Motorsports’ driver Chase Elliott, currently 55 points back from the postseason cutoff. Elliott’s streak of seven consecutive Playoff appearances is in jeopardy with just three races to go in the regular season. In Elliott’s two starts at the Indianapolis Road Course he has finished fourth (2021) and 16th (2022).
Clinch Scenarios: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course — Race №24
Only three races remain in the NASCAR Cup Series 2023 regular season (Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Daytona) and it’s that time of year we break out the calculators and start hammering the numbers to see who needs what to clinch their spot in the Playoffs on points.
The following 12 drivers have clinched a spot in the 16-driver postseason field: Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Can Clinch Via Points
If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the Playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 111 points above the third winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from either Kevin Harvick or Brad Keselowski.
· Kevin Harvick: Would clinch with 44 points
· Brad Keselowski: Would clinch with 54 points
Can Clinch Via Win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:
· Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Ty Gibbs, Michael McDowell, Daniel Suarez, AJ Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Ryan Preece, Corey LaJoie, Todd Gilliland, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe, Ty Dillon
Stacked Field: ‘Road Aces’ from different series join NASCAR at Indianapolis
Looking at this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series entry list, there are some names you don’t often see but are definitely well known in the racing community — Shane van Gisbergen, Mike Rockenfeller, Kamui Kobayashi, Brodie Kostecki, Andy Lally and Jenson Button are entered in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday.
Trackhouse Racing’s Shane van Gisbergen, the 34-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand, became a household name in American motorsports after grabbing the victory at the inaugural Chicago Street Race in his very first NASCAR Cup Series start. Gisbergen with crew chief Darian Grubb will be back this weekend with the Trackhouse Project91 team. Gisbergen is a three-time Australian V8 Supercar Champion.
“This whole NASCAR experience has been a dream come true,” van Gisbergen said recalling the rainy Chicago race. “I can’t wait to get to America then Indy. It will certainly be different than the Chicago Street Course. I’ll need to get up to speed quickly, but we plan a lot of simulator time and I know (№91 Crew Chief) Darian (Grubb) will be thoroughly prepared for Indy.”
Also announced this week, two-time Le Mans winner, Mike Rockenfeller will be driving the №42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet in place of a suspended Noah Gragson. The 38-year-old from Altnau, Switzerland, will be making his third career NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend. In his first two series starts he finished 30th at Watkins Glen and 29th at the Charlotte Roval. Rockenfeller did most of the car development for NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports on the Garage 56 Project that competed at Le Mans earlier this year.
Much like Trackhouse Racing, 23XI Racing will be fielding a third car this weekend and piloting the №67 Toyota will be Kamui Kobayashi from Amagasaki, Japan. The 35-year-old former Formula 1 driver and IMSA Sports Car competitor will be attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend at Indianapolis. Kobayashi will be working with crew chief Eric Phillips this weekend.
Richard Childress Racing will also field a third car this weekend, joining the RCR fold will be the №33 Chevrolet and Australian V8 Supercar driver Brodie Kostecki.
“I am thrilled to be making my NASCAR Cup Series debut at the Brickyard,” Kostecki said. “It’s an honor to compete at such an iconic venue and against some of the biggest names in motorsports. I’m incredibly grateful to RCR for giving me this opportunity, and I’m determined to make the most of it.”
Kostecki, from Perth in Western Australia, is not completely foreign to racing in the states, he made 16 starts in what is now called the ARCA Menards Series East from 2013–14 posting two poles (Iowa, Watkins Glen) and a best finish of fifth (Dover).
One team stacking their roster this weekend is Rick Ware Racing, who has locked in two road aces for Indianapolis in former NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year and IMSA Sports Car winner Andy Lally, and Formula 1 World Champion (2009) Jenson Button.
Button will pilot the Rick Ware Racing №15 Chevrolet this weekend at Indianapolis and Lally will jump behind the wheel of the №51. Button, from England, also participated in the Garage 56 Project and this weekend will be his third career series start in the Cup Series. In his first two appearances earlier this season, he put up an 18th-place finish at Austin and a 21st at Chicago. Lally will also be making his third start of the season this weekend, in his first two starts he finished 35th (Sonoma) and 26th (Chicago).
Tyler Reddick is ready for another date with ‘The Bricks’
One of the special moments afforded the winner of a NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the ceremony of ‘kissing the bricks’ at the start/finish line — a tradition started by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett in 1996. Last year, while driving for Richard Childress Racing, Tyler Reddick won the NASCAR Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and got his first chance at applying the ‘big kiss’ to them rubber ladened, fuel soaked bricks. Now, with his new team 23XI Racing, Reddick returns to Indianapolis looking for his second win of the season and back-to-back victories at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
This season Reddick is ranked 13th in the driver standings but has secured his spot in the Playoffs with his win Austin. This season the California native has put up one win, six top fives and nine top 10s.
In his two starts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course he has posted one win and an average finish of 11.0.
Martin Truex Jr. is in high gear with three races to go in the regular season
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. has shifted into high gear late in the regular season and is leaving his competitors in the dust. The current NASCAR Cup Series driver standings point leader, Truex, holds a 57 point advantage over his teammate Denny Hamlin in second, and 96 points up on Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron in third.
“We are excited,” said Martin Truex Jr. when discussing his recent success. “Every week we feel like we have a shot to win, that is all I can ask for. It’s exciting to come to the track every weekend knowing what these guys are going to bring me. Hopefully, we can keep it up. It would have been nice to get a win at Michigan, but we’ve been really consistent, lots of speed and laps led and that’s gotten us some good finishes. Those 15 bonus points are very important, so that’s what we’ll be focused on the next three weeks. That really helps you come Playoff time. Just excited for what’s ahead with this team.”
In other good news, Truex announced he will be returning to JGR and the №19 Toyota team next season, which isn’t surprising after the year he is having. In 26 starts this season, Truex has collected three race wins, five stage wins, nine top fives and 13 top 10s.
Looking to Indianapolis, Truex will look to improve on his first two appearances at the 2.439-mile course where he posted a 21st in 2021 and a 15th in 2022.
Road Course Aces: NASCAR best at road racing
The NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be challenged by the twists and turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course this weekend in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard (Aug. 13 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Several drivers are still looking for their first win this season, including Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott who leads all active drivers in road course wins with seven. Elliott is already considered one of the early favorites for this weekend but keep an eye on the two most recent winners on road courses in the series, Shane van Gisbergen (Chicago) and current points leader Martin Truex Jr. (Sonoma), as both will most certainly be in the mix as well.
This weekend there are 14 former road course winners entered in this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis.
The NASCAR Cup Series has competed on three road courses this season so far, with 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick winning at Austin (COTA), Truex winning at Sonoma and van Gisbergen at Chicago.
If Chase Elliott were to win this weekend, he would tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (eight road course wins) for second on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time road course wins list, behind only NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon with nine road course victories.
NASCAR at IMS HISTORY
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 considered 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 in 2021 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 inaugural event, by passing Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and leading just the final two laps en route to the victory.