The pursuit for the final two playoffs spots in the Monster Energy Series boils down to a final showdown this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard (2 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, IMS Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the last of 26 regular-season races, one with the high stakes.
It’s the second straight year Indianapolis has hosted the regular-season finale, which will determine the 16-driver postseason field. A group of 14 drivers have already clinched spots on the basis of regular-season wins or insurmountable points cushions, leaving just two berths up for grabs.
Erik Jones and Kyle Larson finished first and second, respectively, last weekend at Darlington Raceway, and both took significant jumps in this week’s Power Rankings. Jones’ victory meant all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won this year, and the organization carries a head of steam into the historic venue.
Here is the rest of the need-to-know information for Sunday’s regular-season finale.
Indy is a 2.5-mile rectangular track with 9.2-degree banking in all four turns and flat straightaways. The facility is home to the Indianapolis 500, which was first run in 1911. NASCAR’s top series has competed at the Brickyard 25 times. Jeff Gordon won the inaugural 400-mile event for stock cars in 1994, leading 93 of 160 laps.
The race at Indianapolis will feature the 2019 rules package with aero ducts and a tapered-spacer engine generating a targeted 550 horsepower.
Each team will be provided with three sets of Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radial tires for practice, one set for qualifying and nine sets for the 400-mile race (eight, plus one transferred from practice or qualifying).
This is the first time teams will run this tire combination at Indianapolis. A tire test at the 2.5-mile track on June 4-5 prompted officials to adopt the tire setup previously used this season at Pocono Raceway, another high-speed track with a different configuration but the same length. The Indianapolis track applied a sealer to the racing surface in May, ahead of the Indianapolis 500.
- Jimmie Johnson has won four times at Indianapolis, part of Hendrick Motorsports’ record 10-win total at the 2.5-mile track. He has an 18-point gap to the postseason cutline, a deficit he’ll need to erase to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in his career.
- Kyle Busch, a two-time Brickyard winner, has won the pole position for the last three 400-milers at Indy. If he adds a third Indianapolis win to his portfolio Sunday, it will mark a sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing of four crown-jewel events (Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500, Brickyard 400).
- Since Chicagoland Speedway kicked off the NBC Sports portion of the NASCAR schedule, Busch has earned the most points. He’s followed on that list by his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates: in order, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Jones. Fifth on the list? Larson, who has five top-five finishes in the last nine races.
Source: Racing Insights
This weekend’s race will air live Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC and will be streamed on the NBC Sports App. Radio coverage can be found on the IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Also, follow along on NASCAR.com for live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the live leaderboard, Drive (featuring in-car cameras) and RaceView (subscription: in-car audio, stats, more). Be sure to set your lineup in Fantasy Live and make your picks in the Props Challenge.
2018 RACE WINNER
Brad Keselowski is the defending race winner at Indy, emerging from a fender-clanging duel with Hamlin to take the lead for the final time in the next-to-last lap. Keselowski’s first Brickyard 400 triumph was also a first for team owner Roger Penske, who has a peerless record in IndyCar competition at the historic track. Keselowski’s win was the second in what would be a three-race win streak as the No. 2 Ford team charged into the playoffs.
ACTIVE INDIANAPOLIS WINNERS
Johnson, four times; Busch, two times; Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman, one time each.