An exhausted and unexpected Kasey Kahne won the 2017 Brickyard 400 after enduring the 6-hour event. With heat and humidity once again settling over the historic track, a small crowd even by NASCAR standards endured a nearly 2 hour rain delay and then watched the race fall apart with 50 laps to go.
It looked like Kyle Busch was going to win his third Brickyard 400 after winning the first two stages relatively easily. Busch and Martin Truex, Jr looked to have the fastest cars and left the audience wondering if Kyle could hang on or if Truex had something left in reserve when go time came.
But with 50 laps to go, Truex and Busch were side by side on a restart entering turn one. With Busch on the outside line and pulling ahead, Truex got loose and sent them both into the wall with Truex’s car in flames. Both drivers were bound and determined to take the lead at this point. The race had proven, as always, that clean air and track position were king and if you got the lead you would more than likely keep the lead. Truex admitted the wreck was his fault, but that was of no consolation to Busch who desperately wants a win to solidify his playoff standing. More than likely, he will have enough points to get into the playoffs in any case, but with the races winding down, any win by a winless driver eliminates the available openings on points. Busch doesn’t want to wait for that chance.
That wreck completely changed the complexion of the race. After hours of being on the track, the heat started to take its toll on decision-making. With laps winding down, it seemed every restart was another opportunity to gain position — or wreck. Blocking at Indy has always been an issue and this was no exception. Earlier in the race, Jimmie Johnson, who drove through the field from the back, blocked Kyle Larson down the back straight in a move that nearly wrecked them both. Larson had it happen again late in the race on a restart after getting blocked by Michael McDowell. That contact sent Larson across the track, into the wall where his car caught fire.
Erik Jones and Kurt Busch were the victims of a Clint Bowyer spinning crash that sent bowyer hard into the inside wall in front of the pit entrance and back across the track in front of Kurt Busch. Busch crushed the Bowyer car and ended both of their days.
With few laps left, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowksi and Jimmie Johnson, whose car was smoking as his engine was expiring, took the restart 3-wide into turn one. Johnson was on the inside and bombed the corner for the lead, only to have his car lose grip and spin into the wall ending his bid for a fifth career win at the Brickyard.
This series of wrecks created red flags and long yellows for track clean up and the sun was setting on a track with no lights. With the race going into overtime, it was going to give the drivers just once chance to get it right and of course, Denny Hamlin, who was smoking from damage, lost it on the backstretch, collecting Paul Menard among others. NASCAR waited until Kasey Kahne crossed the overtime line and then put the track under caution, freezing the field and giving the win to Kahne. Many fans and pundits have criticized NASCAR for waiting on the caution from the moment of the wreck to when Kahne crossed the line. Let’s face it, NASCAR wanted to end the race under green and as soon as Kahne crossed the line, it was an official green flag setting and thus a win. There was no danger of the leaders catching up to the wreck on this track and with darkness closing in, was the potential for another wreck due to poor light an issue? It depends on whom you ask. Personally, I have no issue with the win. Kahne was easily in front of Keselowski, who had a terrible restart. I see the point critics are making but NASCAR has ALWAYS used discretion on the timing of a yellow flag. This was no different.
While this win cements Kahne in the playoff picture, it doesn’t cement his place at Hendrick. With sponsors leaving and his contract up in 2018, Rick Hendrick has been quiet on Kahne’s future at HMS while stating they were planning on staying a four-car organization. Kahne’s career wasn’t on the line, as many TV people kept saying on Sunday, but his future at HMS is certainly in question. Kahne is still young and a good driver, so there is no doubt he would find a seat in Cup. It may not be the best seat, but he would certainly get a ride.
With Alex Bowman getting the nod for the 88 car, there are fewer good rides open. Of note on the Bowman deal – it is a two-year contract. He will need to perform at a high level to keep that ride. HMS has a lot of options and while Earnhardt was in Bowman’s corner, that will end as Earnhardt leaves HMS and enters the NBC broadcast booth in 2018.
And speaking of Earnhardt and his wife Amy, she tweeted out this week that in her opinion, having him race in the Clash next year was not worth the risk. While may of us respect her opinion and her status when it comes to her famous husband, there are a lot of Internet trolls out there that lashed out at her and criticized her.
Here’s my take on the trolls – shut the heck up. If you were ever a true Earnhardt fan, then you understand. If you lashed out, then you were never a true fan, just a worthless Internet troll hiding behind the anonymity of social media as you waste away in your own filth.