Brickyard 400 Update: Strategies shifting, but Kahne’s leading at halfway

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In a race that has been filled with strategy plays, Kasey Kahne holds the point at the halfway mark of today’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kahne took the lead off a restart at Lap 73, and is ahead of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano.

Pole sitter Harvick narrowly led the first lap but Gordon took the lead going into Turn 1 from his fellow Chevy driver.

In clean air, Gordon quickly grew the lead to more than four seconds before a competition caution came out at Lap 20 so teams could check tire wear on a green surface after overnight rains.

Logano chose to stay out on the track, but the rest of the leaders decided to pit. Gordon won the race off of pit road with a two-tire stop, but Logano took over the lead.

Other strategy plays ensued in these stops as well, with Jimmie Johnson going fuel-only and Harvick choosing to take four tires instead of two.

Logano took the inside line for the restart at Lap 26 and kept the point, while Gordon struggled to get going and bottled up the outside line. He eventually settled down in fourth behind Logano, Kahne, and Johnson, while those farther back jostled aggressively for positions.

Also losing out on the restart was Brad Keselowski, who was pinned behind Gordon when he spun his wheels and dropped all the way back to ninth as a result.

Kahne eventually got past Logano in Turn 3 for the point at Lap 32, and a few turns later, Logano came in for his first stop under green. That started a wave of green-flag stops featuring Kahne coming in from the lead at Lap 38, which handed the lead to rookie Kyle Larson.

Larson would hold the lead until Lap 43, when he and Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray hit the pits together. The lead shuffled to Austin Dillon and then to Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin, who pitted under the competition caution, was able to stretch his fuel load to Lap 56 before he finally went in for his second stop. That completed the cycle and put Harvick back atop the pylon by less than half a second over Gordon.

Gordon was able to pass Harvick for the lead just before they pitted together on Lap 66. Two laps later, the first caution of the day came out when Danica Patrick slowed to a stop coming off pit road with a reported broken axle.

Patrick would eventually get the car going again, but not before NASCAR opted to throw the yellow (she eventually went back to the garage for repairs). A good chunk of cars decided to pit at this point, including Tony Stewart, Dillon, McMurray, and more.

But Hamlin kept to his fuel strategy and stayed out to maintain the lead ahead of Harvick, Kahne, Gordon, and Busch. However, Hamlin was jumped on the Lap 73 restart by both Kahne and Busch, and then Harvick dropped him to fourth by the time they came back around to the Yard of Bricks.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”