INDIANAPOLIS — On a weekend to where the future of the oval is still in question here, an estimated crowd of 60k witnessed Ross Chastain make it 4 wide in going for the win in Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s more people to witness Chastain’s Turn 1 bypass than were here for last years race as well as for the final oval race with fans in 2019 too.
Chastain had to. It’s an Indy win on the line and he doesn’t care that it’s on the 2.439-mile road course instead of the 2.5-mile oval. Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez were 2 of the other drivers below him. Chastain went on to the access lane to avoid the spinning Blaney who was tapped by Suarez in the midst of the chaos.
Austin Cindric was the other driver in that 4 driver double decker sandwich. He came out unscathed and thought he had Tyler Reddick in his sights. Then Chastain reappeared in his vision for the win next to Reddick instead.
Chastain took the lead in Turn 3. Reddick got him back in Turn 12. The driver who’d not spoken to his boss much since his July 12 announcement that he’d leave the team for the 2024 season and join 23XI Racing prevailed.
“I couldn’t believe he (Ross Chastain) got ahead of me,” Reddick said. “I was kind of waiting to see if he was going to have a penalty because I didn’t want to move him out of the way and make his race worse than what it was.
“It didn’t seem like real life. I was like, what? I was waiting to see what was going to happen with that situation because I think I had Jim Pohlman say, hey, he’s probably going to get penalized. Well, dammit, Jim, like — Star Trek reference right there. He’s going to get penalized isn’t good enough. I need to know if — I didn’t know for sure if he was or wasn’t.
“Yeah, I was really surprised by that, but hey, we made it work. Hats off to Ross for trying to do that, but really glad it didn’t end up working out because I’d have been pretty pissed off.”
Chastian crossed the famed Yard of Bricks 2nd. However he was scored in 27th instead. He was penalized for that move in going off track and back on again.
That’s the 2nd straight year we’d have seen that here in Indy.
“Yeah, I was trying to race him as hard as I could, but I saw Austin Cindric was right there, and if you get battling side by side in certain sections of this racetrack, you can really hurt lap time on both drivers and allow third place to catch up. It was kind of a complex situation for a couple seconds there, but thankfully I was able to get momentum on Ross in a pretty convenient spot and make the pass for the lead and then check out from there.”
However, Chastian felt like he was playing by the rules.
“Yeah, got a good start and pushed AJ pretty good getting into 1 and they just kept going to our right and I me and AJ were way out there to the left and my spotter called four wide so I was turning in and realize there’s no way we were making it and just decided to get out of the way and take the access lane.
“I mean, yeah, I realized we were side by side with the 8. The way I understand it is if you cut and don’t take the access lane, then you remerge and don’t gain any ground. So if I misunderstood the rule, but it was It wasn’t had not thought about that before turn one I realized there’s no way we’re making turn one I can’t turn in I’m gonna be in the grass. So I took the the alternative lane that they gave us.
“I know that Miller and O’Donnell and Phelps and those guys are going to look at it and I haven’t seen any replays yet. So it’s their call, right? It’s their sandbox. So they say we have a penalty. We have a penalty. I thought I did the rule though and thought I thought that I abided by the rules. I didn’t do it maliciously. I didn’t do it preemptively. We haven’t planned for that. There was three cars in my right and everybody run into each other and I was turning in I couldn’t. I couldn’t see how we would make it and I was going to be in the grass. So I tried to take the alternative which they give us here.”
Reddick now has job security in 2023 because winning heals he says. This was the first time that he and Childress have spoken for any length of time since that announcement. Childress confirmed that Reddick will race for him in 2023 before departing a year after.
“Yeah, Tyler will be in the car at RCR next year,” Childress confirmed “Anytime you win at Indy, it’s always great. This will be the fourth win on the Brickyard. We won one with Ty Dillon with the Xfinity, so we’ve won five times. Anytime you can get a win at Indy, it’s very special.”
“I’ll congratulate him. I’ll congratulate the whole team,” Childress said. “The whole team did a great job. I’ll congratulate our sponsors.”
Reddick says that on his side, nothing has really changed from the announcement other than knowing where he’s going to be in the next year and a half.
“My commitment level, if anything, probably is a little bit higher, but I mean, we’re not talking like it’s a significant amount higher,” he said.
“I just know that we’ve had time to continue to work on our cars and make them better and grow as a team and go the right direction, and now it’s like, all right, we have a hard stop. This is the end of the road that we have together. For me that puts, I think, a good amount of pressure on me to just keep finding more, because we’re always trying to bring the best that we can to the racetrack, but when we know that the end is — it’s not really close, but we know when it’s going to be, we’ve got to take advantage of every single moment possible, and I hope, I feel like at least for me, it’s a good thing. I think it really makes me push hard, and I think it’s making the team push hard. We’re all working really hard together to give it every last ounce that we have out there and win as many races as we can.”
Behind him was 3 rookie drivers. That’s new. That doesn’t happen often but this is a new era in NASCAR with a new car.
Restarts were chaotic and the etiquette on them were borderline disrespectful.
“No it’s a case of just getting wrecked,” Blaney said of his incident. “That’s all people do at the end of these things. Just dive in there and wreck you. I don’t know who shoved who and I don’t care, but tires didn’t matter at the end. We restarted in the top 3 both times and tires don’t really matter. It’s just a matter of getting through on the restart but apparently that’s a hard thing to ask. People just run over each other.”
Cindric said that’s the nature of these cars now.
“The last time I’ve been a part of something like that is rallycross, it’s kind of a contact sport,” Cindric said. You know, I figured it’d be a bit that way with not having steel fenders anymore but that was a lot.
“It’s survival. I mean, the restarts I’d solely positioned myself in the brake zone to make sure you don’t get wiped out. There’s certainly some luck involved, not being on the outside is one of them, but also making sure you don’t have too much wheel to wheel contact. Like I said, I’m only control so much. I felt like they got a bit fortunate with the last one. Pretty sure I got shoved all the way down in the brake zone. I thought it wasn’t gonna work out well. It cleaned out. A lot of guys and I finished.
“Yeah, I knew I knew I wanted to be on the bottom. I feel like that was gonna be the safest place to be because it just keeps going that way into Turn 4 (oval). I got my rear completely locked. I’m pretty sure I got shoved all the way into the corner. Then everybody else ended up in grass and I ended up 2nd.
“I mean, there was certainly an opportunity and you know I approached the last restart like man I don’t want to get eaten up because I have all this damage.”
3rd place finisher Harrison Burton notes that you can’t control much other than your positioning on track and to try to make himself not a bat or a ball, but just to put himself in a spot to where he could do neither and and try and get in the middle and if he got hit, he’d get into someone else and not into the grass.
“So that was my plan of attack,” he says. “It’s kind of weird. Normally you fight to go die bomb on the inside of somebody but I was like, I’m just going to move this guy over a little bit like get to the middle and it ended up working out. The last two restarts we ended up getting from 17th to 9th then 9th to 3rd.”
He tells me when he was 9th on that final restart and knowing anything could happen in front, what was going on in his mind at that point coming to the green?
“I was actually nervous because, you know, we had had a bad day, like I said earlier to start and it’s like man, this is a decent finish and we can stand here I hope I just hope this doesn’t go bad,” he told me. “And we ended up off the track. So it’s really defensive to try and not have that happen. And, you know, that ended up working out for us. So honestly, it was kind of dreading going off into turn one and I’ve thought I was gonna crash a few times. And once I got straightened out, I was like hey, that works out, so you know looked up and only saw three guys in front of us so cool to do that and build off I think we’ve been getting better and better every week. So good the flashing good finish here and go try and run on their next time.”
This type of racing is new to race fans here in general. One gripe of the Brickyard was that it was hard to pass. You’d routinely see someone dominate it without much movement through the field.
The road course is the opposite. There’s comers and goers. No one dominates.
At some point of the race most cars will have visited the top 10. That’s the nature of this new beast. Stage racing has allowed varying strategies.
At one point, we saw 4 different strategies. Only one could win.
Now the dust settles, the sun sets and we wake up in the morning counting down the days until the 2023 race that will definitely be on the road course.
AJ Allmendinger and Tyler Reddick are the 1st 2 winners in the road course races history. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt were the ovals…