Tyler Reddick ended a strong day with a win by pulling away from Austin Cindric after two wild late-race restarts on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Sunday, July 31. Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland and Bubba Wallace rounded out the rest of an unusual top five.
Indy marks Reddick’s second career NASCAR Cup Series victory and only his second career NASCAR road course victory as well. It is also both Gilliland and Burton’s first career Cup Series top-five race results.
How did it happen?
For polesitter Reddick, everything was going according to plan for the entire race.
Or, at least it was until there were five laps to go.
It was a similar sight akin to what we saw when the Cup Series raced at Road America less than a month ago. Reddick led over Chase Elliott, who didn’t quite have the speed the No. 8 did. With 10 laps to go, it appeared it was the Richard Childress Racing driver’s race to lose. Reddick had a full 3.5-second gap over the No. 9 and it wasn’t shrinking. With fresh tires and enough fuel to make it to the end, all Reddick had to do was stay out in front and pray for the race to remain green until the finish.
His prayers this time were not answered.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 31, 2022
The entire day had provided some wild restarts when the field entered turn 1 each time, and that was before there were less than five laps to go. So, everybody held their breath as the field slammed their way into the first sharp left-hand turn.
Of course, it ended as everyone expected.
THEY SPIN!! pic.twitter.com/kT0LzGeqqI
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 31, 2022
The good news for Reddick at the end of the melee was that he didn’t have to worry about Elliott anymore. However, with RCR teammate Austin Dillon stuck in the gravel, it meant another restart where the No. 8 had to fend off all comers.
On the overtime restart, Reddick cleared the field before entering the fatal funnel of turn 1. However, while the rest of the pack leaned on one another through the first two corners, Ross Chastain used the runoff route NASCAR had provided to drivers while entering turn 1 in case they needed it.
Chastain rejoined the track racing Reddick for the lead. The two wrestled for the top spot, but Reddick was able to keep it for the final lap on his way to his second career win.
That finish was WILD! pic.twitter.com/hGT0qSvxz7
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 31, 2022
Turns out Reddick didn’t even have to pass Chastain to get the victory. We’ll get to that.
Who stood out?
Before Road America, Reddick had never won on a road course in NASCAR. In fact, being a dirt racer, he probably hadn’t his entire life.
However, you certainly wouldn’t have known that watching both Road America and Sunday’s race at Indy.
Reddick led a race-high 38 laps from the pole en route to his second career Cup Series victory. Nobody probably would have guessed the Californian’s first two Cup wins would have been on road courses. Yet here we are.
Reddick’s impressive triumph over this unknown territory is also highlighted by his recent announcement he’ll be leaving the No. 8 after 2023 before moving on to 23XI Racing, a piece of news not met well in the shops of RCR.
Reddick says today was the first time he's really gotten to talk with Richard Childress since his 23XI Racing announcement.
Said the win helped "smooth" things over.
Reddick had briefly spoken with Childress before the announcement.#NASCAR
— Daniel McFadin (@danielmcfadin) July 31, 2022
However, despite the supposed inter animosity between driver and crew, Sunday’s performance showed that it’s not hindering the team’s performance. With a second win in 2022, Reddick now appears to be mathematically safe in the playoffs.
Usually, this section is reserved for underdog drivers with great finishes as well, but on Sunday, that really could’ve been said for the entire top 10.
Three of the top five drivers are rookies in 2022, and for one of them – Gilliland – it was his first career Cup top 10.
Cup series rookies playing the long game today 🤣 2nd, 3rd, 4th
— Austin Cindric (@AustinCindric) July 31, 2022
Front Row Motorsports teammate Michael McDowell earned his ninth top 10 of 2022 by finishing in eighth, giving FRM its first double top-10 result since Talladega Superspeedway in 2013.
At one point, Buescher’s Ford was on fire. Literally.
Never a good situation. pic.twitter.com/eOx9xVojur
— No. 17 Team (@RFK17Team) July 31, 2022
Yet, after the crew put the fire out and Buescher went down two laps, he got one back during green-flag pit cycles, then received a free pass doing a flurry of late cautions where he rallied back to a 10th-place finish.
While Allmendinger didn’t have to deal with the heat of a burning inferno, his type of heat was far more prolonged.
On a very hot day in Indiana, the Californian’s cooling suit wasn’t working in his already sweltering race car. Instead, the extra layer of clothing trapped the heat under his fire suit. By the final restart, Allmendinger was out of drinking water.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 31, 2022
He soldiered on to a seventh-place finish but immediately collapsed after exiting the car. He was later released from the infield care center.
Who fell flat?
Frankly, there were plenty of mistakes made on Sunday, but let’s go with the most obvious one.
Reddick was able to hold off Chastain long enough to win at Indy. Although, it turns out he didn’t have to.
The thing about the runoff route is after taking it, the driver must stop and go at a designated area before rejoining the field, similar to the chicane at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. The melon man did not.
Instead, Chastain did what many do when approaching stop signs on empty roads; he slowed down a little bit before continuing on. Your local police deputy might let you get away with that, but NASCAR will not.
Those access roads are meant to be used when there is an incident on the course that would not originally allow a car to pass through or in the case of avoiding an accident. Unfortunately for Chastain, unforeseen accidents don’t count.
Here are the rules from the drivers meeting video that resulted in the Chastain and Dillon 30-second penalties after the race: pic.twitter.com/30hrZGM35X
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) July 31, 2022
While the driver of the No. 1 argued that he had no room entering turn 1, it’s somewhat hard to tell if he truly meant to do so. However, there is also truth that Chastain would’ve undoubtedly ended up in the grass.
— Steve Luvender (@steveluvender) July 31, 2022
But what would you rather have? Driving in the grass and probably hitting another car while entering turn 1 and still walking away with a likely top 10? Or be penalized for obviously cutting the course and finishing 27th?
It’s a matter of risk and reward. Chastain’s decision to skip turns 1 and 2 resulted in the penalty that relegated him back to 27th position, and that was definitely going to happen. However, if he had stayed in that mess and held his ground, who knows where he could’ve ended up?
What did this race prove?
Whether you liked it or not, Sunday’s race was interesting. With that being said, are you really sure you want to go back to the Indianapolis oval?
Hear me out on this one.
Yes, Sunday’s annual visit to the Brickyard was a bit of a mess, but at least it was something. There was a young winner, a high variety of competition in the front of the field, a wild overtime restart and some intense racing for position. Most of those things didn’t happen on the oval Indy track for NASCAR very often.
Sunday’s race was also a bit of a demolition derby, and that really was because of that darn turn 1. Drivers fanning out to three and four-wide before entering a slow narrow corner usually doesn’t end well for most racing series. There have been many arguments that the road course has been too destructive on teams’ equipment, costing them millions in damages.
How soon we forget.
— Gary Owen | GOWEN | 개리 (@GOWENYT) July 31, 2022
The truth is that Indianapolis is a narrow track made for single-file IndyCar racing, not crazy double-file NASCAR restarts. The wild side-by-side action NASCAR provides is not really meant for the enclosed, high-speed straights of Indy.
Then, there’s the matter of dwindling attendance.
Yes, the broadcast cameras showed some empty stands on the outskirts of the 2.5-mile-long facility. It’s obvious NASCAR’s annual visit to the Brickyard is still a far cry from the glory days of the first Brickyard 400s which boasted attendance of 300,000.
But it’s not the worst it’s ever been.
.@IMS says attendance today came in just over 60,000 – slightly above last year’s Sunday count (just under 60k).
Over the 3-day weekend, attendance was flat year-over-year at 120,000 combined Friday-Sunday.
In 2019, the last Brickyard 400 w/ fans, IMS drew just over 60,000.
— Nathan Brown (@By_NathanBrown) July 31, 2022
However, there is one big factor that has changed since we left the oval: the car.
The Next Gen chassis has provided an improved racing product year over year with almost every track visited in 2022. With that, there certainly is some intrigue with how the car would perform on the 2.5-mile oval.
Really, going back to the oval isn’t a bad idea, but let’s not act like it’s going to be the savior of the Brickyard for NASCAR. The allure of NASCAR going to IMS isn’t all there anymore, at least for the non-racing fan. Before, it had a novelty factor to it, but that’s somewhat worn off.
People want to go back to the oval so they can complain about it being boring instead of it being a bit chaotic. https://t.co/D8V4JqyAn0
— Beth Lunkenheimer (@NASCARBeth) August 1, 2022
However, if you really want a sure good time in Indianapolis for the Cup Series, apparently there’s this small short track right down the road from IMS. They did this truck race on Friday night that was really fun. Maybe the Cup Series guys would have some fun there, too?
It may have to accommodate for a larger crowd, though.
Better than last time?
Well, for one, the track didn’t literally come apart. So, that’s an improvement already.
However, there was a drop in competition. At least for the lead.
Sunday saw nine lead changes among seven different drivers. In 2021, there were 14 lead changes between 11 leaders. Another downside to road course racing is certainly the long strewn-out green-flag runs that can see a leader stretching out to a four-second advantage, leaving pit stop strategies barren. We saw something similar at Road America.
It was a dynamic that paralleled what we saw one year ago, complete with a penalty for a driver fighting for the lead, another driver earning their second career win, and even almost the same number of cautions throughout the race.
All in all, it appeared as though the Next Gen car didn’t change much in the racing product at the IMS road course, which is a similar pattern we have seen for all road courses this year.
But hey, at least the crowd looked better in some places.
— Pat Patterson (@RacingGuy) July 31, 2022
Paint scheme of the race
Anytime a sponsor displays a charity campaign on a racecar, it usually means a special paint scheme is coming.
In this case, Craftsman’s $100,000 donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals was enough to create a new livery for Christopher Bell‘s Toyota Camry.
— Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) July 31, 2022
While having a huge donation is usually a good reason to enjoy a certain paint scheme design, it also helps that it actually looks good. Even more reason to enjoy it, the red-orange coloring is reminiscent of another orange paint scheme the No. 20 once had. One that became iconic for NASCAR fans.
NASCAR heads to the Irish Hills.
The NASCAR Cup Series travels to Michigan International Raceway for its annual visit to the 2-mile banked oval. Cup qualifying begins on Saturday, Aug. 6 at 1:20 p.m. ET with the FireKeepers Casino 400 being televised live on USA Network on Sunday, Aug. 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
About the author
Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.
Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT
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