Kasey Kahne wins surprising, crazy and entertaining Brickyard 400

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?!

Photo: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Brickyard 400, and NASCAR racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in general lately, has been dreadful. No passing, no action, clean air reigning supreme. The most exciting part of the day was typically when the winner kissed the bricks after earning the victory.

But this past Sunday, it was all flipped on its proverbial head. Because this year’s Brickyard 400 was C-R-A-Z-Y.

Kasey Kahne (yes, Kasey Kahne) wound up in victory lane in his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet when the race concluded. Kahne survived a race that saw 14 cautions fly for 55 laps, a rain delay, multiple red flags, the race almost being called due to darkness, two overtimes and varying strategies to grab his first win since 2014 at Atlanta. Again, it was C-R-A-Z-Y.


KISSES FOR KASEY

102 races is a long time to go without a win. Especially for a driver like Kasey Kahne, who drives for a powerhouse team in Hendrick Motorsports and whose future is up in the air beyond this season. But when his first real chance to win in months was on the line, and perhaps the last of his career as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver, Kahne delivered. Big time.

Photo: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Kahne was passed by Brad Keselowski on the first overtime attempt, which lasted about two seconds. Cars wrecked on the frontstretch before the leaders reached the start/finish line, causing the yellow flag to fly. The race was ultimately red flagged due to a lengthy clean-up, and Kahne had over 20 minutes to sit and think about his next move. One that would be his last.

And the Enumclaw, Wash. native got ‘er done. He drove his No. 5 Chevrolet deep into turn one on the inside of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford in the second green/white/checkered attempt and cleared him. Cars wound up wrecking on the backstretch before the leader, Kahne, reached the overtime line (we’ll get to that later), but the caution flag was displayed after Kahne passed the overtime line. Meaning he won the race. The first one since Atlanta back in 2014.

Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

“The (win for my) career is big, for sure,” an exhausted and dehydrated Kahne told NBC in victory lane. “But the win and the history here. To win at this track is unreal. We used to always be really close. We lost to Jeff (Gordon) and we lost to Tony (Stewart); just some fast cars back then. Today, strategy got us here. This Farmers Insurance Chevrolet was great once I got out front. I just had to get there. I’m exhausted. But, an unbelievable win.”

What got him out front was a little bit of luck and a little bit of strategy. His crew chief Keith Rodden called him to pit road on lap 150 for the final pit stop of the afternoon. Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones and Kurt Busch were involved in a scary wreck on the frontstretch as Kahne was exiting pit road. Everyone else had yet to pit, which wound up leaving Kahne out front. And after losing the first overtime restart to Keselowski, he wouldn’t let the second slip away.


10TH FOR RICK, FIRST FOR RODDEN

Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

The Brickyard 400 victory was the first for both Kasey Kahne and his crew chief Keith Rodden at Indy. In fact, this was Rodden’s first-ever MENCS victory. But for team owner Rick Hendrick, kissing the bricks seems like somewhat of a normal thing nowadays. After all, why wouldn’t it be?

The win was Hendrick’s 10th at IMS (five with Jeff Gordon, four with Jimmie Johnson, now one with Kahne). But in terms of next season, Hendrick was a bit non-committal about Kahne’s future with the organization. After all, William Byron, who has been rumored to make the leap to Cup from XFINITY next season, won at the Brickyard for his third NXS win of the season.

“(It) puts him in the playoffs,” Hendrick said when asked about what this win does for Kahne’s future. “You know, we’re excited about that  I hope this turns the corner. The team’s had a lot of bad luck. Pocono is a good race for Kasey and Keith. We’ll go up there and try to do it again.”

Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Kahne didn’t join his crew chief and owner in the media center, but he had a good reason. He was severely dehydrated and exhausted after the more than six-hour race, so he was in the infield care center getting a bag of fluids to feel better. But Rodden was soaking up the victory.

“I think it’s probably one of the sweetest races you can win,” Rodden said in the media center post-race. “Obviously Indianapolis is a huge racetrack, ton of history here […] today was a big day. We always talk about how much bad luck we have really as a company, but definitely on the No. 5 car. Sometimes you make your own luck, sometimes things happen that are completely out of your control. Today was one of those things where we made a decision to alter our pit strategy a little bit […] super proud of everybody.”


THE FIELD

Following Kahne across the finish line were Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth. Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Matt DiBenedetto (!), Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top-10 finishers from the famed 2.5-mile track.

Danica Patrick, Cole Whitt (!), Aric Almirola, Timmy Hill (!) and Jamie McMurray also grabbed top-15 finishes and survived the carnage that was the Brickyard 400. Some other notable finishers included Denny Hamlin in 17th, Trevor Bayne in 20th and Ryan Blaney in 23rd. Those three drivers were involved in the accident that ultimately ended the race.


TOYOTA TEAMMATES TANGLE

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Kyle Busch was dominating at Indianapolis. He wound up leading a race-high 87 laps in his No. 18 Skittles Camry. And right behind him? Martin Truex Jr.

The two were running 1-2 for all of the first two stages, and developed a strategy where the leader chose the outside lane on restarts and the second-place driver would let him in on the restart before they got to turn one. It was working out well. But then, something changed.

Photo: NBC

On a lap 111 restart, the No. 78 was the leader and the No. 18 was in second. Busch opted to sever the deal and race for it. Due to the extreme advantage given to the leader under these rules, Busch thought that if Truex Jr. passed him, he might not be able to get back around. So the two raced hard into turn one, the No. 78 got loose, went into the No. 18 and sent the two crashing into the outside SAFER barrier hard, ending both their afternoons prematurely.

“I guess we could have continued to play the teammate game and try to settle it on a green-flag pit stop,” Busch, who was going for his third Brickyard 400 victory in a row, said post-race to NBC. “But he could be that much faster than me and yard me by three seconds on a run with the clean air. I would never be able to get the opportunity to pass him back even if we had to settle it on a pit stop […] that’s the way it goes, just chalk it up to another one that we figure out how to lose these things by. It’s very frustrating and I hate it for my guys.”

Truex Jr. took the blame for the incident post-race that saw his car burst into a ball of flames. Thankfully, he was unharmed and was able to exit his burning car safely.

“I will take the blame for that and obviously it was my fault,” Truex Jr. told NBC following the wreck. “I hate it for Kyle, he had a great car and we did as well, but that’s racing.”

Truex Jr. is safely in the playoffs, but Busch is not. The No. 78 has more playoff points than anybody in NASCAR, but Busch has now officially gone more than one calendar year without a points-paying victory. Although he won two stages, he’s still winless. Rowdy is restless.


THE OVERTIME LINE STRIKES AGAIN

*Sigh* … I wish I wasn’t here telling you about how the overtime line forced the conclusion of another NASCAR race prematurely. But here I am, telling you about how the overtime line forced the conclusion of another NASCAR race prematurely.

I’ll give you a crash course. The overtime line is a painted white line on the backstretch signifying that the race will be deemed official if a caution were to come out and the leader passes said line before the white flag is displayed. This is only in use in overtime situations.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Well, look at this. This is a screenshot of the final, race ending wreck while Kasey Kahne was leading. You can clearly see the overtime line, and you can clearly see the leader has not reached it. NASCAR didn’t throw the caution here. That’s fair. They’re humans and they don’t have milliseconds of reaction time. But you can see that cars are wadded up, wrecked and have been for at least 1-2 seconds. Why didn’t NASCAR throw the caution then? Or even a second later? They could have and perhaps have gotten a third and final overtime attempt in.

Photo: NBC

“What we have always said and we have always been consistent, is we’re going to make every attempt to finish the race under green, and to do that you have to see what happens with an incident,” NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell told a select group of media post-race. “In this case, we did that. Once we decided to throw the caution when we wanted to dispatch emergency equipment we also knew that there was oil on the race track; we threw the caution and ultimately that’s the end of the race.”

Look, I’m a big fan of Mr. O’Donnell. Or Od Steve, as he’s known as in the garage. What he was basically trying to say was that darkness was fast approaching and NASCAR had to end the race there. Why? Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn’t have lights. If the caution flew before Kahne reached the overtime line, NASCAR would be forced to red flag the event again, clean up the mess, and restart. By the time that ended, the track would have most likely been too dark to race safely. But am I still mad? Of course I’m still mad.

To say I would rather have a race end due to darkness than end with the overtime line coming into effect might be a little bit of a stretch. But why couldn’t NASCAR have dispatched all the safety and clean-up crews they had at the track, cleaned up that mess faster than they ever have before, go back green and finish the race under green, LIKE A NASCAR RACE ALWAYS SHOULD?

O’Donnell is on record as saying that the overtime line will probably go away for the 2018 season, but that doesn’t change the fact that the finish to a great Brickyard 400 was hindered. The same happened in the XFINITY race at Daytona, too. And a handful of other places. But man oh man, was I heated when the overtime line affected this race. Because it shouldn’t have.


OVERALL CRAZINESS

This post-race article has been longer than normal. Heck, it’s probably been the longest one I’ve ever written for Impact 89FM | Sports, and I’ve been writing a preview and recap for almost three full years now. But that’s because THIS RACE WAS C-R-A-Z-Y!

I’ve gone over a few crazy things that went down. I mean, Kasey Kahne won. Nobody saw that coming. The top two drivers of the race (and arguably of the season) wrecked each other. And they’re basically teammates. The overtime line has everybody talking. Heck, Trevor Bayne almost won this race on fuel strategy! Matt DiBenedetto got a top-10 finish. Cole Whitt earned a top-12. Timmy Freaking Hill finished 14th driving for Carl Long. CARL LONG!

Plus, there was a totally new rules package ran in the XFINITY event the day prior, which produced the best NXS race at IMS ever, including the most lead changes ever. Oh, William Byron won that race and is on fire. By the way, Alex Bowman is going to drive the No. 88 next season, Brad Keselowski signed an extension with Team Penske and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to be a broadcaster for NBC next season. NASCAR is SO busy. C-R-A-Z-Y, y’all!


WHAT’S NEXT

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will head from one 2.5-mile flat track to another in Pocono Raceway this weekend for the Overton’s 400 on Sunday. Chris Buescher is the defending winner of the event, as he outlasted the fog. The Camping World Truck Series will also be at The Tricky Triangle for the Overton’s 150, whereas the XFINITY Series will be at Iowa Speedway for a standalone event, the US Cellular 250 presented by American Ethanol.