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Brickyard Weekend Overflows with NASCAR, INDYCAR Excitement

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is set to host the most comprehensive motorsports weekend of the season as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NASCAR’s Cup and Xfinity Series unite at the Brickyard.

The road racing extravaganza features three days of thrilling on-track action, with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and the Xfinity Series staging races Saturday at noon ET and 3:30 p.m., respectively. The Cup Series competes Sunday at 2:30 p.m. All three races will air live on NBC.

There are eight former NASCAR Cup Series season champions entered in this year’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard, but only three of them have earned Cup Series victories at the Racing Capital of the World.

Whether that makes Kevin Harvick (three IMS wins), Kyle Busch (two) or Brad Keselowski (one) the favorites to win Sunday’s race remains to be seen given that those victories came on the oval track. AJ Allmendinger, who does not have a Cup Series season championship on his resume, won last year’s road course race, the only such won held at the Brickyard.

Perhaps the best way to describe the Cup Series field participating this weekend is that there are many contenders to reach Victory Lane, and they start with those former series champions.

Harvick, Busch and Keselowski are always potential winners, regardless of the track, the type of event or the surface being contested on. History suggests that the two most recent series champions, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, are also likely to etch their names among the Brickyard’s top-division stock car winners. And former series champions Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano also must be considered among the favorites at this iconic track.

The thing to know about the 2022 Cup Series field is that it is deeper, with more potential race winners, than any season on record. Already, 14 drivers have won at least one points-paying races this season.

Elliott has the most wins (four) and sits atop the standings, but he has been unable to shake the congestion behind him despite winning three of the past five races. Four other drivers have won a pair of races (Ross Chastain, William Byron, Denny Hamlinand Logano), leaving single winners Larson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Suarez and Christopher Bell.Reddick was second to Elliott in last weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway.

On June 12, Suarez became the first Mexican-born driver to win a points-paying Cup Series race, and it was on a road course (Sonoma Raceway). Chastain (Circuit of The Americas) and Reddick (Road America) have won the other road course races this season.

The surprises started at the first race of the season, the Daytona 500, when Cindricemerged from the crowded pack to win for Team Penske. It wasn’t just a race win on NASCAR’s largest stage; it was the first Cup Series victory of the driver’s career, and it came in just his eighth series start.

This Xfinity Series season has largely belonged to Ty Gibbs, and evidence of that came at Road America earlier this month when the 19-year-old rising star beat Larson in a heads-up battle.

With four race wins this season, Gibbs has been on a pace to win one out of every four starts – he finished second to Noah Gragson in last weekend’s race at Pocono -- and it might take a veteran driver like Allmendinger to keep him from the series championship.

While Gibbs won at Road America to go with his oval-track wins at Las Vegas, Atlantaand Richmond, Allmendinger remains a star on stock car racing’s road courses. In addition to the victory in last year’s Cup Series race at IMS, Allmendinger has won the other two Xfinity Series road races this season – at Circuit of The Americas and Portland International Raceway – and added two more such wins last season (at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and at Charlotte Motor Speedway). Eight of Allmendinger’s career Xfinity Series race wins and both of his victories in the Cup Series have come on permanent road courses.

Gragson, Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry are the other drivers in this Xfinity Series field to post multiple series race wins even before the calendar turned to July, and Austin Hill joined the group with his second race win July 9 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Brandon Jones, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick also have race wins this season.

Note that the Xfinity Series’ two road course races at IMS have had a heavy local flavor. Chase Briscoe of Mitchell, Indiana, beat fellow Hoosier Justin Haley of Winamac in the 2020 race, and last year the victory went to Cindric, whose father, Tim, is an Indianapolis native. Cindric’s paternal grandfather, Carl, was an Indianapolis-based engine builder for several cars competing in the Indianapolis 500.

Cindric earned last year’s victory by holding off Allmendinger, a former NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver, who in the 2013 “500” led 23 laps for Team Penske and made a strong case for winning before settling for the seventh finishing position. Haley finished third in the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard last year. Of course, Cindric drives for IMS owner Roger Penske.

In 2020, the race’s top five included Briscoe, Haley, Allmendinger and Cindric, with Briscoe taking Stewart-Haas, co-owned by Indiana native Tony Stewart, to Victory Lane.

Gibbs doesn’t have the same local connection, although his grandfather, Joe, has owned five Brickyard 400-winning cars at IMS: Bobby Labonte in 2000, Stewart in 2005 and 2007, and Kyle Busch in 2015 and 2016.

Indianapolis 500 champion Marcus Ericsson heads the list of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers ready to use the Gallagher Grand Prix as a springboard to a season championship.

Ericsson leads a tight points battle featuring four former series champions – fellow Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon, a six-time title winner, and reigning champion Alex Palou plus Team Penske drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Ericsson finished fourth in the GMR Grand Prix, the series’ road course race held May 14, and is eightpoints north of Power for the series lead heading to the first of five remaining races.

Power is the winningest driver in the short history of this version of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, winning five of the 12 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races with five poles. Power’s next pole ties him with Mario Andretti for the most in series history (67).

With Newgarden winning one race and Simon Pagenaud two on the IMS road course during his years with Team Penske, Roger Penske’s organization leads the way with eight victories on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit.

The first NTT INDYCAR SERIES road race at IMS was held in 2014.

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta won the race in May 2022, the GMR Grand Prix, by holding off Pagenaud, Power, Ericsson and Conor Daly in dramatically changing weather conditions. There were 471 total on-track passes, with 362 for position, both smashing the old passing records on the IMS road course – 269 on-track passes and 190 for positions, both set in a race last year’s Brickyard weekend event.

Like Power, Dixon has a chance at history this weekend. The next race win of his career moves him into second place among all INDYCAR drivers with 53 race wins. Earlier this month, the six-time series champion tied Andretti with 52 career race wins. A.J Foyt holds the record with 67.

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