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NASCAR at the Brickyard: Harvick wins Cup; Briscoe wins Xfinity again

NASCAR at the Brickyard: Harvick wins Cup; Briscoe wins Xfinity again

NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Harvick comes out the winner in another duel with Hamlin

Indianapolis, IN, July 5/20 (GRW): Once more time this year the Cup race came down to a battle between Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Coming off the eighth caution on lap 139 of the 160-lap race, Hamlin took the lead ahead of Harvick. Neither of them had taken on tires during this caution, so it was questionable whether their tires would go the remaining few laps or not. Hamlin continued to lead Harvick but by less that a second margin. Then, on lap 154, Hamlin’s right-front tire blew and he went crashing heavily into the outside wall, his race done.

Now Harvick had it all his own way as they got ready for an overtime restart. Veteran driver Matt Kenseth lined up alongside for the restart – but Harvick got a good jump on him at the green and he drove away from him over the final two laps, taking the checker by a 0.7-second margin.

PHOTO NCS IMS Checkered 070520Kevin Harvick takes the checkered flag ahead of Matt Kenseth to win the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

"We knew he [Hamlin] was going to be really close on tires and [crew chief] Rodney [Childers} told me on the radio, he said ‘just make sure you keep the pressure on him," Harvick said. "That was all the pressure I could give."

"It’s tough, I hate it for the FedEx team [No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team]," Hamlin said post-race. "We did what we needed to do and it just didn’t work out for us today. Had a fast car obviously. Proud of the whole FedEx Toyota team. We’ve been so good lately. Feel like I’m doing all I can, in these big races. A lot things like this don’t go my way all the time, but we’re still going to go next week and try to win the next one. Do all we can."

"It’s been a great battle, and those guys are great competitors. The last few weeks have been kind of a head-to-head with me and him. Probably not another guy I’d rather battle with each and every week. Congrats to them and that team. We had two very close and equal cars but they got it today."

Aric Almirola finished third ahead of Brad Keselowski and the rookie Cole Custer.

This race was scheduled to start just after 4:00 pm but lightning in the area meant that the race did not begin until 5:19, making it touch-and-go whether the race could be completed before dark at this track with no lights. Despite nine cautions and a red-flag period, they did wave the checker just as the sun was setting.

The first Stage was set to be 50 laps, so they added a competition caution at lap 12 to compensate for the lack of any practice sessions. The pit lane here is ancient and narrow. An incident near the top of the pit lane resulted in a huge pile-up involving many cars – and eliminating about six from the race. They put out the red flag while the mess was cleaned up. One of Ryan Blaney’s pit crew members, Zach Price, was injured in the melee. Price was transported to a local hospital, treated and released.

Harvick escaped unscathed given that he had pitted just before the pits closed in anticipation of this caution – and now he was at the front of the field.

As they approached the end of the first Stage, Harvick and a number of other drivers pitted early to gain track position again. On the restart, Chase Elliott was leading ahead of Hamlin, Harvick and Kyle Busch.

The race’s fourth yellow came on lap 76 when Erik Jones blew a tire and slammed into the wall hard. William Byron won the race out of the pits to head up the field for the restart. Unfortunately, on the first green-flag lap, he crashed into the wall, bringing out yet another caution. When everything was sorted out this time, it was Harvick leading the field for the restart ahead of Elliott and Hamlin – and with the end of the second Stage coming only a few laps later, that was the order at the end of this Stage.

The front three did not pit during this caution, so before long they stopped under green for fresh tires. This cycled Kenseth up into the lead while Hamlin and Harvick fell back to 19th and 20th place.

Thirty laps later, Alex Bowman slammed into the wall bringing out the penultimate caution. Given that Hamlin and Harvick had pitted just a few laps earlier, they both skipped this round of pit stops and regained the front two positions for the next restart – but it made them iffy on tires. This set up the final run which culminated in Hamlin slamming into the wall and Harvick taking the win.

While the former champion Kenseth had his best finish – almost a win – after replacing Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Ganassi car, Jimmie Johnson had to sit out this race after he had tested positive for COVID-19. Justin Allgaier subbed for him but the No 48 car was knocked out in the early-race pit road melee.

• Click HERE for the results of the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400.

• The next Cup Series race will be held at Kentucky Speedway next Sunday, July 12. The NASCAR All-Star race will e held at Bristol the following Wednesday evening, July 15. There will be a pair of Xfinity races here on Thursday and Friday, with an ARCA Menards race and a NGROTS (trucks) race on Saturday, July 11.

 PHOTO NXS IMS ChaseLead 070420Chase Briscoe leads Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson during the Pennzoil 150 (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course:

Briscoe squeezes off a fifth Xfinity win

Indianapolis, IN, July 4/20 (GRW): Given the need to reorganize the race calendar due to the pandemic, NASCAR ended up with their pair of Xfinity/Cup races at Indianapolis on the same weekend as the first of the three Indy car races set for IMS. Given that this Indy car race was to be run on the road course here, the Xfinity race, scheduled for later on the same day, was moved over onto the road course – and it produced a competitive, entertaining race. Not to say that Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race on the big oval was not a good race either ...

Coming off the caution at the end of the second 20-lap Stage, Chase Briscoe was in front of challengers Justin Allgaier and A.J. Allmendinger while Austin Cindric, anther contender, was restarting back in fifth place. By the time the final caution came out on lap 53 of the 62-lap race, Briscoe was still leading – but ahead of Allmendinger and Cindric now.

This combination was to prove to be fiery in the final few laps after this restart. On the final green, Noah Gragson charged up to join the fray and challenge Briscoe for the lead. Briscoe slid wide in the infield section and Allmendinger took over the lead ahead of Cindric, Briscoe and Gragson – all in a bunch.

Briscoe muscled his way past into the lead while Allmendinger and Cindric – side-by-side – made contact but continued. This let Gragson and Justin Haley past into second and third place. Haley passed Gragson for second while Briscoe romped home, taking the checker by a 1.7-second margin. Allmendinger was fourth and Cindric had to settle for fifth.

PHOTO NXS IMS VL 070420Chase Briscoe celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the the Pennzoil 150 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

"The restarts. I was starting on the outside which I didn’t think was the best scenario," Briscoe said. "It seemed like holes were opening up. I wasn’t very good when guys were right behind me because I needed the back of my corner to be really good. You can’t do that when they are right behind you, especially Allmendinger. He is so good in the braking zones.

"I did give it away in a sense over there. Cindric and him (Allmendinger) started racing pretty hard and that gave me a chance to get back in there and I threw a slide job into [turns] one and two and I think that was by far the hardest I have run in my life to get a win."

This race demonstrated that the IMS road course can produce excellent racing action and, no doubt, we will see more races on it in the future. Is it too much to hope that we might see the much vaunted second USGP back here before long?

Cindric had won the first 20-lap Stage and he was looking like a favourite to win the race. When he lined up for the restart he was alongside Briscoe who had taken over the No. 1 spot by beating him out of the pits. On the green, Cindric shot out ahead of Briscoe and he won the race into the first turn. Unfortunately, NASCAR ruled that his start had been too good and they penalized him for a jumped start.

When the second Stage ended Allmendinger (who had also been penalized for pitting too early during the race’s first caution) were back in 11th and 12th place – but soon after the restart they were back in contention vying with Briscoe and Allmendinger for the lead – and setting up the late-race battle which saw Briscoe emerge as the race winner.

Clearly with his five race wins so far this season, Briscoe has to be a favourite to win the championship but, given how the championship is, in reality, based on the results of just the final race, any one of this day’s front-running drivers (and more) still must be counted as contenders for the title.

• Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity Pennzoil 150.

• The next Xfinity race will be held next Thursday, July 9th at the Kentucky Speedway. This will be the first race in a weekday doubleheader here; the second Xfinity race of the pair will be run on Friday, July 10th.

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