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NASCAR Goes Big Time at Brickyard

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series teams will battle it out at The Brickyard of Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend for trophies and brick kissing rights.

The 2.5-mile quad oval has held racing for more than 100 years, NASCAR has been racing there for the past quarter century.

While everyone is trying for trophies, there are four drivers looking to lock themselves in the two remaining Playoff positions to complete the 16-driver field. There’s actually a race within a race this weekend with some going for the win, and others trying to get in.

Heading into Sunday’s race, Clint Bowyer holds onto the 15th position in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Behind him, and tied for 16th, are SHR teammate Daniel Suarez in the No. 41 Ford and Roush Racing’s Ford driven by Ryan Newman. Of those two, whoever bests the other makes the Playoffs.

Unless, seven-time champion and four-time Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Chevrolet team have their say. Johnson is currently 18th trailing 16th by 18 markers.

He is down to one strategy to make the Playoffs so he doesn’t miss it for the first time in 15 years – just win baby. It’s a sure bet cameras will be following all four drivers to see how this shakes out.

This, however, can be blown to smithereens if a first-time winner takes the checkers, kisses the yard of bricks at the finish line and claims an automatic entry. That would put them 15th in points leaving Bowyer, Suarez and Newman racing for the final ticket to the Playoffs.

In the meantime, reigning winner Brad Keselowski will try to duplicate last year’s effort and give team owner Roger Penske another IMS victory. Keselowski finished second in this No. 2 Ford in 2017 and led seven of nine races for a total of 108 laps.

However, keep an eye on Kyle Busch – as always – as he and the No. 18 Toyota team look to earn their third IMS victory in the last five starts. He’s coming off last weekend being crowned the Regular Season Champion after beating out reigning champion Joey Logano.

Two drivers on hot streaks are Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Both are locked in for the Playoffs with Harvick earning an IMS win in 2003, along with 12 top-10s in 16 starts.

Another win by him and the No. 4 Ford team would be special for a few reasons.

“I grew up in Bakersfield, California, as a Rick Means fan,’’ Harvick said. “Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as a child, that was your racing dream. That was where you wanted to race. I’ve been fortunate to have won the Brickyard 400 and kind of live out that childhood dream.

“There is a mystique and history, and everything you can think about in racing that has happened for over 100 years has happened at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I always feel like it is one of the most special places you can race because that’s all I wanted to do as a kid.’’

Race time on Sunday is 2 p.m. ET on NBC-TV and IMS Radio Network.

Xfinity Series still looking to lock in their championship contenders

When the green flags waves on Saturday, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will seek to add another, or repeat, winner. A repeat would be great for Justin Allgaier and his Chevrolet team since they are the reigning winners.

There have been five different winners in seven races at IMS for the NXS. Kyle Busch has won it three times and is looking to add a fourth with the Joe Gibbs Racing team. The other Cup regular competing will be Austin Dillon in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Tyler Reddick and the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing team currently lead the overall points. To clinch the Regular Season Championship he needs to be 61 markers ahead of Christopher Bell when the checkered flag waves. He’s currently 51 points ahead.

Eight drivers are locked in for their Playoffs leaving four open positions to be earned by points or race wins. Like the Cup Series, this will remain interesting right up until it’s decided in the next two races.

Race time is 3 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN-TV, IMS Radio and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.

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