2020 NASCAR Cup Series preview: Brickyard 400

NASCAR’s premier series hits the oval for the third Crown Jewel race of the season at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Brickyard 400 moves from the cutoff race for the playoffs to the Fourth of July weekend, switching dates with the Daytona night race.

The 2.5-mile oval runs fairly similar to Pocono Raceway, which is where NASCAR was last weekend. The backstretch and frontstretch are long, but the corner straights between turns one and two, and turns three and four, are short and treacherous. Similar to Pocono, all corners are flat compared to most NASCAR oval tracks, which are high-banked (for the most part).

The biggest news story of the race weekend was Jimmie Johnson’s positive COVID-19 test. The seven-time champion and four-time Brickyard 400 winner will not race on Sunday and will be replaced by Xfinity Series regular Justin Allgaier. Due to the driver change, Allgaier will have to drop to the rear at the start of Sunday’s race. Johnson had started 663 consecutive races prior to missing Sunday’s race. It was the longest active streak, but the streak now belongs to Kevin Harvick at 655 races.

Harvick is the defending Brickyard 400 champion and possesses the best average finish of any active driver at an 8.9. He will start 11th on Sunday.

Joey Logano drew the pole for Team Penske for the race, team owner Roger Penske also owns the Brickyard facility. In 11 starts at Indy, Logano has four top-fives and seven top-10s with an average finish of 10.9.

Four-time 2020 winner, which includes last Sunday’s race at Pocono, Denny Hamlin, starts sixth on Sunday. He finished sixth in last year’s race and has finished inside the top-five in four of the last six Brickyard 400’s.

Bubba Wallace looks to repeat the success he had at the Brickyard last year, where he finished third. The Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team has shown quality speed recently as they have finished inside the top-15 in four of the last seven races. Wallace will start 17th on Sunday.

Stages for Sunday’s race end on lap 50, lap 100, and the finish on lap 60. The fuel window is around 40 to 43 laps. The track surface will be hot and slick as outside temperatures will be in the low-90s. Even though there is a 15% chance of rain, this will likely be the Cup Series’ first race not affected by weather since the Martinsville race back on June 10.

Coverage for the Brickyard 400 begins at 4:00 p.m. EST on NBC and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio. The green flag is scheduled at 4:24 p.m.

Starting lineup:

Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2020/07/01/goodyear-fast-facts-indianapolis-3/

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